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  • Fait de langues: Revue de linguistique no 23–24: Les langues austronésiennes
  • Paul Geraghty
Elizabeth Zeitoun, ed. 2004. Fait de langues: Revue de linguistique no 23–24: Les langues austronésiennes. Paris: OPHRYS, avec le concours du Centre National du Livre et du CNRS. 473 pp. + 2 pp. advertisements, 2 pp. maps. €53,00 (France), €63,00 (elsewhere), paper.

In this collection, Elizabeth Zeitoun, well known for her work on Formosan languages, gathers together 25 papers in an attempt to “give an overview of current linguistic research in Austronesian languages” (7) to a francophone audience. It is therefore not, nor does it claim to be, an encyclopedic work on the Austronesian language family in the tradition of Tryon (1995). All the papers are in French, six—those by Reid and Liao, Ross, Starosta, Hsin, Austin, and Radetzky—having been translated and adapted from the English by the compiler/editor herself (designated “scientific director”) with the assistance of a number of colleagues. Two of these—Reid and Liao, and Ross—had previously appeared in the Taiwanese journal Language and Linguistics. Wisely, example sentences in translated articles retain their English translations in addition to the French.

Authors are a mixture of those well known to anglophone Austronesianists (Laurent Sagart, Lawrence Reid, Malcolm Ross, the late Stanley Starosta, Alexander Adelaar, Jean-Claude Rivierre, Françoise Ozanne-Rivierre, Claire Moyse-Faurie, Isabelle Bril, Jean-Michel Charpentier) and a number of less well-known authors. All articles have been subjected to two reviews and revised accordingly.

The book is divided into four sections: geography, history, and typology (7 papers); grammatical studies (12); ethnolinguistics (2); and sociolinguistics (4). Areas covered are Austronesian (4), Taiwan (6), Philippines (3), Malagasy (4), Malay (1), Indonesia (1), Oceanic (1), Vanuatu (1), New Caledonia (2), Polynesia (1), Pacific pidgins (1); understandably, then, there is a francophone bias, with virtually no input from Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, or Micronesia, but rather surprisingly nothing at all from French Polynesia either. These papers are preceded by a general introduction by Zeitoun, and followed by a general bibliography, a list of abstracts in both French and English, and a list of the hundred-odd Austronesian language names that are mentioned in the book, arranged geographically.

The first section (geography, history, and typology) begins with a paper by the editor outlining the geographic spread and the history of the Austronesian languages, and discussing their internal relationships. This is a useful introduction, but there are a few inaccuracies: Chamorro and Palauan are assigned to Western Austronesian on linguistic grounds, not geographic (12), Nauru is missing from the list of Micronesian nations, Fiji is wrongly included in Polynesia (14), and it is not true to say (19) that Proto-Austronesian (PAN) final consonants were lost in Proto-Oceanic. This introduction is followed by Laurent Sagart arguing that the Sino-Tibetan family is related to Austronesian, both descending from a language spoken by millet and rice farmers in the Huang He Valley of northern China around 8000 bp; I found the morphological evidence here particularly persuasive. [End Page 470]

There then follow three articles on typology: Elizabeth Zeitoun with a broad overview of the Formosan languages, Lawrence Reid and Hsiu-chuan Liao concentrating on the syntactic structures of Philippine languages, and Malcolm Ross on morphosyntactic features of “canonic” Oceanic languages. Stanley Starosta then gives his own take on transitivity and ergativity in nine geographically scattered Austronesian languages, while Nicolas Ossart surveys Austronesian numeral systems, his conclusion regarding reconstruction paralleling—or foreshadowing?—Sagart’s (2004:413–22) intriguing claim that the PAn system was, at least partially, quinary. While this is a useful summary of numeral systems, the author’s assertion (113) that none of the languages surveyed—and, by implication, no Austronesian language—has a specific word for ‘hundred’ or ‘thousand’ is patently mistaken: Futunan, for example, has the words lelau and afe (Moyse-Faurie 1993), and indeed there are Austronesian languages that have specific words for multiples of ten up to 1010 (Harrison and Jackson 1984).

In the second section (grammatical studies, meaning ‘grammatical’ in its broadest sense) K. Alexander Adelaar leads off with a fascinating analysis of seventeenth...


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