[An-lang] Proto-Dialect chains

John Lynch lynch_j at VANUATU.USP.AC.FJ
Tue Jul 15 04:25:35 UTC 2003

Andrew Pawley and I have been having a little private e-discussion, but felt
it might be better to come on-list to get a wider spread of ideas.

The query relates to the nomenclature used for protolanguages and families
as opposed to proto-dialect chains and linkages. One might refer to the
Polynesian subgroup, for example, and to Proto-Polynesian, as implying a
(fairly) homogeneous and uniform single ancestral language. Forms labelled
PPn *xyz would thus represent forms which, to the best of our knowledge,
were part of that protolanguage.

My concern is with dialect-chains. There was probably a Southern Oceanic
linkage, an dialect-chain ancestral to the languages of Vanuatu and New
Caledonia. To use the same nomenclature for this proto-dialect chain - i.e.,
Proto-Southern Oceanic - tends to imply that it is of the same nature as a
more homogeneous protolanguage, which it is not.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that it would be useful to have some fairly
tight and neat way of referring to such ancestors, and not by some
long-winded expression like "Ancestral Southern Oceanic dialect-chain" or
some such, especially since one can legitimately also make reconstructions
for such a "language", with the proviso that they are less secure and were
probably more subject to internal variation than those made for

My suggestion to Andy was to use lower-case p: proto-Southern Oceanic and
pSOc as opposed tpo Proto-Polynesian and PPn. I felt this would be a
sufficient indication of difference, and yet at the same time brief,
succinct, and similar enough to existing conventions.

Does anyone have any reactions to such a convention, or more importantly any
idea on what others might have used?


John Lynch

"The past is not dead. It is not even past." (William Faulkner)

John Lynch
Pro-VC and Director Pacific Languages Unit
Emalus Campus - USP
PMB 072
Port Vila. Vanuatu.
Phone: +678 22748.  Fax:  +678 22633

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