Malcolm Ross malcolm.ross at ANU.EDU.AU
Mon Jul 14 03:40:51 UTC 2008

Dear Fay,

> I'm currently working in central Flores and Bima, so I've been
> wondering about the CEMP level of the family. What, if anything, has
> been done on reconstructing the language this level, and by whom?

Since Bob Blust established CEMP as a subgroup, very little historical  
work has been done on CEMP apart from Bob's own lexical  
reconstructions. We need to understand where Proto CEMP came from  
(Java/Bali? Sulawesi?) and we need to understand a great deal more  
about the internal history of CEMP and how it diversified, but, beyond  
Bob's division of CEMP into CMP and EMP, I think it is true to say  
that very little has been done. Happily the number of descriptions of  
CEMP languages has grown somewhat in the years since Bob's work, so  
perhaps it is time for someone to undertake a closer diachronic study.

Both the archaeology and the linguistics seem to point towards a  
rather rapid initial push of Austronesian speakers from west to east  
across the region, suggesting that Proto CEMP and Proto CMP perhaps  
existed as single languages for only a very short time, but that is a  
rather speculative inference.

> I'm
> particularly interested in whether anyone has postulated presence or
> absence of any focus morphology, or other verbal marking, and if
> there's any thoughts on what basic word order was at that point.
> Being strictly synchronic myself, I'd be really happy for any
> diachronic information that's available.

So the answer to this question is, I think, 'no', no one has  
postulated presence or absence of focus morphology in Proto CEMP. It  
is interesting, though, that Proto Oceanic, which was a descendant of  
Proto CEMP, at least retained fragments of PMP focus morphology  
(*paŋan ̩'eat (intr)' < PMP *paN + kan vs *kani 'eat (tr)'; *panako  
'steal' < PMP *paN + takaw), so, if the tree is correct, there must  
also have been at least bits of this morphology around in Proto CEMP.  
But this doesn't mean that a focus system was still functioning. It  
would be nice if someone could offer evidence one way or the other.

- Malcolm

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