Austronesian and Chinese words for the millets

in Language Dynamics and Change
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After reviewing recent evidence from related disciplines arguing for an origin of the Austronesian peoples in northeastern China, this paper discusses the Proto-Austronesian and Old Chinese names of the millets, Setaria italica and Panicum miliaceum. Partly based on linguistic data collected in Taiwan by the authors, proposed Proto-Austronesian cognate sets for millet terms are re-evaluated and the Proto-Austronesian sets are identified. The reasons for the earlier confusion among Old Chinese terms for the millets are explained: the Austronesian term for Panicum miliaceum and one of the Chinese terms for the same plant are shown to obey the sound correspondences between Proto-Austronesian and Chinese, earlier described, under a particular resolution of the phonological ambiguities in the OC reconstruction. Possession of the two kinds of millets (not just Setaria, as previously thought) places the pre-Austronesians in northeastern China, adjacent to the probable Sino-Tibetan homeland.

Austronesian and Chinese words for the millets

in Language Dynamics and Change



  • 1

    Blust (2014) criticizes some of the numeral etymologies proposed by Sagart but cannot explain the nestedness of the numerals 5–10 which is crucial to the proposed position of Tai-Kadai.

  • 2

    Gray et al. (2009) estimate the date of Proto-Austronesian at c. 3230 BCE.

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