Piwakawaka Mini Te Mära Reo ~ The Language Garden

Time Walk, Stage 2

Here is the official representative of the Proto Malayo Polynesian word *siRi, in the form of the tï kouka (Cordyline australis), about 30 metres west of the plants near the gate representing the Proto Austronesian phase.

After you have contemplated this tree, you can go another 12 metres or so further along the main driveway, and you'll come to a gap leading to another pathway behind the olive tree (to the right in the picture immediately below) towards the kauri tree (left in the photo). This will most certainly take you over the Wallace line and towards the next stage, Proto-Oceanic.

And if you wish to continue your journey through time in cyberspace (and have read the text in the column opposite!), just click on the link below the next photograph.


Tumanako Aerial View

To go on to the Stage 3 Time Travel Page
(click here!)

To go back to the Stage 1 Time Travel Page
(click here!)

Or, if you want to transport yourself into the present day, and work your way into the past, walk along the secondary driveway immediately to your left, pictured below with the "Stage 2" Tï käuka on the corner, following the path as it curves westwards until you reach Stage 12 (there is a link under the photograph).

Tumanako Northeast road frontage

To make a quantum leap to Stage 12,
click here!


"Time travel walk" - Stage2

Proto Malayo-Polynesian (from about 3,000-2,000 BC)

During the few seconds it would have taken you to walk the thirty metres to this point, if you started in Taiwan (Stage 1), you have started walking through about a thousand years of Austronesian history. About 5,000 years ago Austronesian explorers sailed across the 500 kilometers of ocean separating Taiwan from the northern Philippines. This brought them into island Southeast Asia, well to the north of the original "Wallace line", but essentially into this region of new plants and possibilities. They and their descendents quickly established settlements throughout the Philippine archipelago, and over the next thousand years had also sailed into the heart of "Wallacea", begun to colonize Sulawesi (The Celebes) and reached the northern coast of New Guinea. From there, some Austronesian language speakers ventured further west, throughout what is now the rest of Indonesia as well as Malaysia, Singapore, and some then sailed thousands of miles southwest to Madagascar. Others travelled along the New Guinea coast and adjacent islands, and ventured on, astonishingly rapidly for people in those times, out into the Pacific. There was also an eastward movement a little later directly from the Philippines, over open seas to Guam and Saipan, and probably also to Central America on what was probably a one-way voyage with the coconut (DNA evidence shows that this plant was introduced to the Americas from the Philippines over two millennia ago).

There appears to have been considerable contact between various Austronesian-speaking communities during this period (they were superb sailors, and the distances between adjacent island groups were not vast), but naturally the languages started to diverge as time and distance had their inevitable effects. Affecting the history of the Maori language, there was firstly a split between Eastern and Western Malayo Polynesian, and then a further split between the languages of the Celebes area and those spoken by the people who had started to venture further east, along the New Guinea coast. However, for the plant names, we have grouped names from these still closely related linguistic groups as "Proto Malayo Polynesian" without further qualification.

As the Austronesians settled the Philippines amd Sulawesi they named the new species of plants and animals that they encountered, and many of these names have lasted down to the present. A dozen plant names from this period have reached Aotearoa. A much larger number can be found in the modern languages spoken in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, simply because many of the same plants to which the original names applied are found in those part of tropical Southeast Asia. To this extent, the original Wallace line now also divides Western from Central and Eastern Malayo-Polynesian languages and their modern descendents. Our representative for the still-recognizable Proto Malayo-Polynesian phase is, the a word thought originally to have been *siRi (the "R" represents a uvular /r/, something like the French /r/, which vanished in the evolution of Polynesian languages). The Proto Malayo-Polynesian word probably covered species of the related genus Dracaena as well as Cordyline in general, and the reference to Cordylines seems to have been retained throughout its history in most Austronesian languages which retain this word, with the association with Dracaena also still present in many of them. In this part of the garden it is manifested as the tï köuka, Cordyline australis.

You can read more about the old word and its modern guises, as well as the plants it refers to, on these pages:

* (Proto-Polynesian form)

(Modern Mäori)

The map below indicates where the Malayo-Polynesian phase of the Mäori language was located geographically. The line actually drawn by Wallace (blue on the map) follows the deep rift between the plate boundaries running from south of Mindanao and curving to just to the east of Borneo and Java. This is still a good marker separating the Western Malayo-Polynesian language cluster from the rest. However, as you can see from the red line, the "Wallace Line" (which reflected the marked difference in the flora and fauna of the islands to the west (more like the Asian mainland, to which they had once been joined) and the east, was later modified to become a straight east-west divide, with the Philippines except for Palawan on the eastern side.

xxxx sppMap of insular Southeast Asia and New Guinea, showing the Wallace Line and its modification by Huxley.


Now, if you want to continue along the northern New Guinea coast to the next stage of the journey (or make a quantum leap of 3,000 years or so to the last stage) orient yourself by reading the left hand column, and choose your path.




Hue flower

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