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Investigating the Origins of Little People Myths in Taiwan and Beyond
Volume Editors: and
This volume, edited by Tobie Openshaw and Dean Karalekas, will guide you on a multidisciplinary journey through Indigenous peoples’ centuries-old lore of “little people” in Taiwan and the Pacific. Learn about the Taiwan SaiSiyat people’s paSta’ay ritual, still held to this day to commemorate the koko ta’ay. Follow the distribution of the legends, interspersed with original stories by modern Indigenous authors. Explore the archaeological find of small-statured negrito remains in Taiwan, and delve into the most current research on the topic by linguists, anthropologists, folklorists, and other specialists to unravel the mystery of what—or who—inspired these ancient legends.
Author:
Western Subanon Grammar is the first ever comprehensive description of Western Subanon, a highly endangered indigenous Austronesian minority language in the southern Philippines. Written by a native speaker and the result of intensive fieldwork, the book's 25 chapters cover the phonological, morpho-syntactic, and discourse properties of the language. Special attention is devoted to salient grammatical features of Western Subanon, including symmetrical voice, relative clauses, ellipsis, and scope. The volume also makes available numerous examples online through Kaipuleohone, the digital linguistic archive of the University of Hawaii.
Author:

Abstract

An aspect of the Austronesian Comparative Dictionary (ACD) by the late Robert Blust which remains underanalysed are what are termed “Formosanisms;” words which were restricted to the island of Taiwan and are not reflected in broader Austronesian. One hypothesis is that the Formosanisms derive from the languages of other peoples who were in contact with the island subsequent to the first wave of Austronesian expansion. That such contacts existed is uncontroversial. If the Formosanisms are a consequence of lexical diffusion, then by definition they would not be Proto-Austronesian (PAN), but rather a mosaic of loanwords. We would therefore expect a lack of regular sound correspondences, since the words would have spread from one language to another. Modern humans have been settled on Taiwan from at least 25,000 BP. It is generally supposed that phenotypically these were of the negrito type common in Island Southeast Asia, and recent osteoarchaeological work has confirmed this. We cannot know what languages these people spoke. This chapter sets out to suggest how we can detect the substrate lexicon in modern Formosan languages. The focus is on animals, since Taiwan is home to a large number of endemic species, and incoming migrants plausibly adopt names from resident populations. It tabulates a series of Formosanisms, identified by Paul Li and Robert Blust, together with newly identified cognate datasets to establish a hypothesis for their origins.

In: Seeking the koko’ ta’ay
Author:

Abstract

Legends of Little People can be found among the myths of 15 of Taiwan’s indigenous tribes. The author did a comparative study of the pertinent literature, oral texts, and the subjective interpretation from indigenous storytellers themselves. The author found that although there are variations among the legends of different groups, it is possible to distinguish three distinct “legend circles” within the framework of Little People legends based on their narrative content, the historical context of the transmitting groups, and geographical distribution. The first legend circle of Little People includes the Atayal, Seediq, Truku, Bunun, Thao, and Tsou. In these groups, Little People are alien and enemy, and the people often fought with the Little People for various reasons. The second legend circle includes the Paiwan, Rukai, Puyuma and Hla’alua, and this circle is significantly different from the first. The legends of these four tribes shows that they do not regard the Little People as an enemy per se, and consequently there are fewer stories about wars. On the contrary, most of legends are about the tribal people encountering Little People in early migration or tribal establishment, or they accidentally entered the Little People’ territory, lived next to them, or received assistance from them in some way. Some legends even disclose that their ancestors married Little People, or even viewed Little People as their ancestors. These are unique features of this circle, and therefore the relationship between their ancestors and the Little People was one of closeness and yet distance. In this chapter we examine the main characteristics of the narrative literature of these legend circles.

In: Seeking the koko’ ta’ay
In: Seeking the koko’ ta’ay

Abstract

On a narrow path in the woods, accompanied by the chirping of bugs and birds, Ljeljeman and her brother Puljaljuyang walk happily, carrying bags full of taros, and following the setting sun toward home. Thinking of their mother waiting for them as she lights the welcoming hearth in their home built of stone slabs, Ljeljeman feels excited. She begins hymning a song as the wind gently blows through the woods, and Puljaljuyang sings along. Not far away from their community, they see a “friend,” about their height, so they greet him, “Hello! Which family are you from?” Unexpectedly, this “friend” turns and replies, “It’s very rude for you to talk like that. I am old enough to be your father!” The girl and the boy are astonished. The “friend” continues, “But you are welcome to play with my daughter.” The sister and brother watch in amazement as he whispers some words, causing a door on the mountain wall to open up. Their fear outweighed only by their curiosity, the two children follow their new “friend” into an unknown world inside the mountain …

In: Seeking the koko’ ta’ay
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Abstract

After the great flood had completely ebbed, Syuma’, an Atayal youth from M’lipa, went hunting alone in Malipa Mountain. After losing his way, Syuma’ stumbled upon the house of a MKsingut family which was guarded by a colony of bumblebees. Curiosity gripping him, Syuma’ successfully dodged the bumblebees and ventured into the house. The dwelling was half underground, and Syuma’ needed to squat down to enter it. Inside, he found the MKsingut family enjoying a meal, and they kindly invited the lost hunter to join them. Sitting with his hosts, Syuma’ recognized these MKsingut people as those he had learned about from folk tales. The MKsingut were so named by Atayal people, because they were very short, dwarf-like, and when they stood up, they only came up to an Atayal person’s bellybutton. Sometimes it was said that they were so small, they wouldn’t break the branches when climbing Black Pigeon Pea trees. These Little People, Syuma’ recalled from the stories, did not eat food, but derived sustenance from the aroma of the meal, simply by smelling it with their noses. At this meal, Syuma’ saw first-hand the truth of this tale, while the MKsingut family were bemused to witness their large guest eating, chewing, and swallowing their food.

In: Seeking the koko’ ta’ay
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Abstract

This chapter provides a brief ethnography of the negrito populations of Insular and Peninsular Southeast Asia, placing them in their geographic, socio-cultural, and economic matrices. Specific groups within the overall negrito populations are highlighted: Onge of the Andamans, Batek in Malaysia, and the Mamanua, Zambales Ayta and northeastern Luzon Agta. The origins of negritos from earlier Pleistocene humans through to their respective homelands some 50,000 years ago are discussed, as is the presence of non-human (non-sapiens) Denisovan genes. The negritos are argued to have entered the region as negritos and to have undergone further evolutionary divergence in their new locales. They were the “First Peoples” of Southeast Asia.

In: Seeking the koko’ ta’ay
Author:

Abstract

The Saisiyat represent the only indigenous group in Taiwan that pays homage to the Little People of legend, through the ceremony and songs of the paSta’ay. It can be clearly seen that the relationship between the Saisiyat and the Little People is unique, and different from other tribes. The characteristic of narrative literature of the Saisiyat intertwines love with hate. It has been said that legend is a prelude to science. For most tribes, legend is spread by mouth, down through the generations, notwithstanding how real the origin of that legend may have been. It has long been rooted in people’s cultural memories, and those legends inform and influence functions and values in literature, social organization, and religious expression. This chapter examines the legend of the Koko’ta’ay, including its origins, its evolution, and the important part it plays in the modern life of the Saisiyat people, especially through the paSta’ay.

In: Seeking the koko’ ta’ay

Abstract

Myths and legends about Little People are commonly found in every Formosan ethnic group. Saisiyat people have the best description of Little People, and they hold the ritual ceremony of paSta’ay in their honour biennially to ensure a good harvest. Reports about Little People are given in Chinese written documents starting a few hundred years ago. Several Japanese scholars, such as Kanori Ino, Buntaro Adachi, Ryuzo Torii, and Tadao Kano, discuss whether the Little People of the oral traditions of the Formosan Indigenous peoples were once real, or simply fictional. There is no solid linguistic evidence to confirm or disconfirm their existence. Only recently did the identification of human remains excavated at the Xiaoma Caves on the east coast of Taiwan, and their morphological similarities with the negritos in Luzon, provide a strong piece of evidence in support of the existence of Little People in Taiwan prior to the arrival of the Austronesians’ ancestors, five to six thousand years ago. The implications of this archaeological discovery are discussed.

In: Seeking the koko’ ta’ay