Greater North Borneo languages

The Greater North Borneo languages are a proposed subgroup of the Austronesian language family. The subgroup covers languages that are spoken throughout much of Borneo (excluding the southeastern area where the Greater Barito languages are spoken), as well as parts of Sumatra and Java, and Mainland Southeast Asia. The Greater North Borneo hypothesis was first proposed by Robert Blust (2010) and further elaborated by Alexander Smith (2017a, 2017b).[1][2][3] The evidence presented for this proposal are solely lexical.[4]

Greater North Borneo
most of Borneo
parts of Sumatra, western Java and Mainland Southeast Asia
Linguistic classificationAustronesian
Glottolognort3253  (partial match)

The proposed subgroup covers some of the major languages in Southeast Asia, including Malay/Indonesian and related Malayic languages such as Minangkabau, Banjar and Iban; as well as Sundanese and Acehnese. In Borneo itself, the largest non-Malayic GNB language in terms of the number of speakers is Central Dusun, mainly spoken in Sabah.[5]

Since Greater North Borneo also includes the Malayic, Chamic, and Sundanese languages, it is incompatible with Alexander Adelaar's Malayo-Sumbawan hypothesis.[6][7]


Blust connects the GNB expansion with the migration of Austronesian speakers into Maritime Southeast Asia. According to Blust, when Austronesian speakers came from the north through the Philippines, they split into three groups: one that went into Borneo, one that went into Sulawesi, and one that went into the Moluccas.[8] After landing in Borneo, the first group was further split into two: one that moved along the northwestern coast facing the South China Sea, and another one that moved along the eastern coast. The language variety spoken by the northwestern group eventually developed into the Greater North Borneo languages.[9]


Blust (2010)

Robert Blust proposed a set of lexical innovations that defined Greater North Borneo. One of these innovations is *tuzuq replacing Proto-Malayo-Polynesian *pitu for 'seven'.[1] The following subgroups are included:

While Blust assumed that all languages of Borneo other than those in Greater Barito subgroup with GNB,[1] he does not attempt to explicitly classify several languages, including those with insufficient available data.[10][11]

Smith (2017a, 2017b)

Smith recognizes an independent Central Sarawak branch within Greater North Borneo, combining the Melanau, Kajang and Punan–Müller-Schwaner languages.[12] Additionally, he also excludes Moklenic from GNB and places it all the way up as one of the primary branches of Malayo-Polynesian.[3]

Proto-Kayanic, Proto-Punan, Proto-Müller-Schwaner, Proto-Land Dayak, and Proto-Kenyah have also been reconstructed in Smith (2017a).[13]


  1. Blust 2010, pp. 44, 47.
  2. Smith 2017a, p. 346–364.
  3. Smith 2017b, p. 459–460.
  4. Blust 2010, p. 68.
  5. Blust 2013, p. 65.
  6. Blust 2010, p. 81.
  7. Adelaar 2005.
  8. Blust 2010, p. 45.
  9. Blust 2010, p. 48.
  10. Blust 2010, pp. 52–53.
  11. Smith 2017a, p. 28.
  12. Smith 2017a, p. 319.
  13. Smith 2017a, p. 49–50.


  • Adelaar, Alexander (2005). "Malayo-Sumbawan". Oceanic Linguistics. 44 (2): 357–388. JSTOR 3623345.
  • Blust, Robert (2010). "The Greater North Borneo Hypothesis". Oceanic Linguistics. 49 (1): 44–118. JSTOR 40783586.
  • Blust, Robert (2013). The Austronesian languages. Asia-Pacific Linguistics 8 (revised ed.). Canberra: Asia-Pacific Linguistics, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University. hdl:1885/10191. ISBN 9781922185075.
  • Smith, Alexander D. (2017a). The Languages of Borneo: A Comprehensive Classification (PDF) (Ph.D. Dissertation). University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.
  • Smith, Alexander D. (2017b). "The Western Malayo-Polynesian Problem". Oceanic Linguistics. 56 (2): 435–490. doi:10.1353/ol.2017.0021.

Further reading

  • Adelaar, Alexander; Himmelmann, Nikolaus, eds. (2005). The Austronesian Languages of Asia and Madagascar. London: Routledge. ISBN 9780700712861.
  • Blust, Robert; Smith, Alexander D. (2014). A Bibliography of the Languages of Borneo (and Madagascar). Phillips, Maine: Borneo Research Council. ISBN 9781929900152.
  • Lobel, Jason William (2016). North Borneo Sourcebook: Vocabularies and Functors. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 9780824857790.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.