Click on the image of the plant to go to the page devoted to its Proto-Polynesian and earlier names.



PAn *panguraL



PMP *qubi



PMP *butun



PMP *teRas



PMP *tales



PPN *baRu



PMP *punti



PPN *baRu



PMP *niuR



PMP *kuluR


PMP *biRu



PMP *siRi


The Evolution of Plant Names

This selection of a dozen of the oldest plant names brought from Taiwan (whara) or the Philippines and Sulawesi (all the rest) to Aotearoa shows how some sounds shifted at different stages of the evolution of contemporary Austronesian languages, while others remained quite stable in some (but not all) languages as the words journeyed with their speakers from one place to another. For example, Proto Austronesian and Proto Malayo-Polynesian *b and *p become *p in Proto Oceanic and *f by the time the words they used to appear in reach Polynesia, On the other hand, Proto Malayo-Polynesian *q (the "glottal stop") gets as far as Tonga, and it is retained unchanged in contemporary Tongan, although it has disappeared in Nuclear Polynesian languages like Samoan and Māori, while Proto Malayo-Polynesian *t remains unchanged throughout the journey to Aotearoa. All Polynesian languages, however, have simplified the way words are constructed, so final consonants have vanished both at the ends of words and in syllables within words (as with the Polynesian reflexes of Proto Malayo-Polynesian *pandan, below).

Proto Austronesian *panguraL [Pandanus]

Proto Malayo-Polynesian: *pandan [Pandanus]
Proto Oceanic: *padran [Pandanus, esp. P. tectorius]
Proto Polynesian: *fara [Pandanus tectorius]

Modern Austronesian reflexes of *pangural:
Tagalog (Philippines): pandan [Pandanus tectorius]
Tongan: [Pandanus tectorius]
Samoan: fala [Pandanus tectorius]
Hawaiian: hala [Pandanus tectorius]
Tahitian: fara [Pandanus tectorius]
Māori: whara, hara [Astelia spp. & harakeke]

Proto Malayo-Polynesian *qubi [Dioscorea yam]

Proto Oceanic: *qupi [Dioscorea alata]
Proto Polynesian: *qufi [Dioscorea alata]

Modern Austronesian reflexes of *qubi:
Tagalog (Philippines): ubi [Dioscorea alata ]
Tongan: 'ufi [Dioscorea alata]
Samoan: ufi [Dioscorea alata]
Hawaiian: uhi [Dioscorea alata]
Tahitian: ufi [Dioscorea alata]
Māori: uwhi [Dioscorea alata]

Proto Malayo-Polynesian *butun [A shore tree, Barringtonia spp.]

Proto Oceanic: *putun [Barringtonia asiatica]
Proto Eastern Oceanic: *putu [Barringtonia asiatica]
Proto Central Pacific: *vutu [Barringtonia asiatica]
Proto Polynesian: *futu [Barringtonia asiatica]

Modern Austronesian reflexes of *butun:
Tagalog (Philippines): botong [Barringtonia asiatica]
Tongan: futu [Barringtonia asiatica]
Samoan: futu [Barringtonia asiatica]
Tahitian: hutu [Barringtonia asiatica]
Māori: hutu [Ascarina lucida ]

Proto Malayo-Polynesian *teRas [Hardwood]

Proto Oceanic: *toRas [Hardwood trees in general ]
Proto Eastern Oceanic: *toRa [Instsia bijuga (a hardwood species)]
Proto Central Pacific: *toa [Casuarina equisetifolia (a hardwood species)]
Proto Polynesian: *toa [Casuarina equisetifolia]

Modern Austronesian reflexes of *teRas:
Tagalog (Philippines): tigas [Hardwood]
Malay: teras [Hardwood]
Tongan: toa [Casuarina equisetifolia]
Samoan: toa [Casuarina equisetifolia]
Hawaiian: koa [Acacia koa]
Tahitian: toa [Casuarina equisetifolia]
Māori: toatoa [Phyllocladus trichomanioides]

Proto Malayo-Polynesian *tales [Colocasia esculenta]

Proto Oceanic: *talo [Colocasia esculenta]
Proto Polynesian: *talo [Colocasia esculenta]

Modern Austronesian reflexes of *tales:
Central Tagbanwa (Philippines): talit [Colocasia esculenta]
Javanese (Indonesia): tales [Colocasia esculenta]
Tongan: talo [Colocasia esculenta]
Samoan: talo [Colocasia esculenta]
Hawaiian: kalo [Colocasia esculenta]
Tahitian: taro [Colocasia esculenta]
Māori: taro [Colocasia esculenta]

Proto Malayo-Polynesian *baRu [Hibiscus tilliaceus]

Proto Oceanic: *paRu [Hibiscus tilliaceus]
Proto Eastern Oceanic: vaRu [Hibiscus tilliaceus]
Proto Central Pacific: vau [Hibiscus tilliaceus]
Proto Polynesian: *fau [Hibiscus tilliaceus]

Modern Austronesian reflexes of *baRu:
Tagalog (Philippines): balibago; [Hibiscus tilliaceus]
Javanese (Indonesia): waru; [Hibiscus tilliaceus]
Tongan: fau [Hibiscus tilliaceus]
Samoan: fau [Hibiscus tilliaceus]
Hawaiian: hau [Hibiscus tilliaceus]
Tahitian: fau [Hibiscus tilliaceus]
Māori: whau [Entelea arborescens ]

Proto Malayo-Polynesian *punti [Musa spp. (banana)]

Proto Oceanic: *pudi [Musa varieties (bananas]
Proto Central Pacific: *vudi [Musa varieties, esp. cooking bananas]
Proto Polynesian: *futi [Musa varieties, esp. cooking bananas]

Modern Austronesian reflexes of *punti:
Pangisinan (Philippines): ponti [Musa varieties]
Hova (Madagascar): funtsi [Musa varieties]
Tongan: fusi [Musa varieties - cooking bananas & bananas in general]
Samoan: futi [Musa varieties]
Māori: hutihuti [Ipomoea batatas (kumara) cultivar]

Proto Malayo-Polynesian *kiRay [Pandanus sp.]

Proto Oceanic: *kiRe [Coastal Pandanus]
Proto Polynesian: *kie [Pandanus used for making fine mats]
Proto Nuclear Polynesian: *kiekie [Freycinetia spp.]

Modern Austronesian reflexes of *kiRay:
Manobo (Philippines): kilay [Pandanus]
Tongan: kie [Pandanus used for making fine mats]
Samoan: 'ie [a sterile variety of Pandanus tectorius]
Samoan: 'ie'ie [Freycinetia spp.]
Hawaiian:'ie'ie [Freycinetia arborea ]
Tahitian: 'ie'ie [Freycinetia demissa & F. victoriperrea]
Māori: kiekie [Freycinetia banksii ]

Proto Malayo-Polynesian *niuR [Cocos nucifera (coconut)]

Proto Oceanic: *niuR [Cocos nucifera]
Proto Polynesian: *niu [Cocos nucifera]

Modern Austronesian reflexes of *niuR:
Tagalog (Philippines): niyog [Cocos nucifera]
Tongan: niu [Cocos nucifera]
Samoan: niu [Cocos nucifera]
Hawaiian: niu [Cocos nucifera]
Tahitian: niu [Cocos nucifera]
Rarotongan: [Cocos nucifera]
Māori: niu [a ceremonial wand or pole]

Proto Malayo-Polynesian *kuluR [Artocarpus atilis (breadfruit)]

Proto Oceanic: *kuluR [Artocarpus atilis]
Proto Polynesian: *kulu [Artocarpus atilis]

Modern Austronesian reflexes of *kuluR:
Cebuano (Philippines): kolo [Artocarpus atilis]
Malay: kulur [Artocarpus atilis]
Tongan: kulu [Artocarpus atilis]
Samoan: 'ulu [Artocarpus atilis]
Hawaiian: 'ulu [Artocarpus atilis]
Tahitian: 'uru [Artocarpus atilis]
Māori: kuru [Remembered in tradition as a tree bearing fruit in Hawaiki]

Proto Malayo-Polynesian *biRuq [Licuala rumphii (fan palm)]

Proto Oceanic: *piRuq [Fan palms, esp. Licuala sp.]
Proto Eastern Oceanic: *piRu [Fan & umbrella palms generally]
Proto Central Pacific: *viu [Pritchardia Fan palms]
Proto Polynesian: *piu [Prichardia pacifica]

Modern Austronesian reflexes of *biRuq:
Tongan: piu [Prichardia pacifica]
Samoan: piu [Prichardia pacifica]
Māori: piupiu [Generic name for a group of ferns with palm-like fronds]

Proto Malayo-Polynesian *siRi [Cordlyine & Dracaena spp.]

Proto Oceanic: *jiRi [Cordyline & Dracaena spp.]
Proto Central Pacific: *jī [Cordyline & Dracaena spp.]
Proto Polynesian: *tī [Cordyline fruticosa]

Modern Austronesian reflexes of *siRi:
Palauan (Micronesia): sis [Cordyline fruticosa]
Tongan: [Cordyline fruticosa]
Samoan: [Cordyline fruticosa]
Hawaiian: [Cordyline fruticosa]
Tahitian: [Cordyline fruticosa]
Māori: [Cordyline fruticosa & other Cordyline spp.]

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Te Mära Reo, c/o Benton Family Trust, "Tumanako", RD 1, Taupiri, Waikato 3791, Aotearoa / New Zealand. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License