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Kusunda: An Indo-Pacific language in Nepal


Abstract and Figures

The Kusunda people of central Nepal have long been regarded as a relic tribe of South Asia. They are, or were until recently, seminomadic hunter-gatherers, living in jungles and forests, with a language that shows no similarities to surrounding languages. They are often described as shorter and darker than neighboring tribes. Our research indicates that the Kusunda language is a member of the Indo-Pacific family. This is a surprising finding inasmuch as the Indo-Pacific family is located on New Guinea and surrounding islands. The possibility that Kusunda is a remnant of the migration that led to the initial peopling of New Guinea and Australia warrants additional investigation from both a linguistic and genetic perspective.
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Kusunda: An Indo-Pacific language in Nepal
Paul Whitehouse
, Timothy Usher
, Merritt Ruhlen
, and William S.-Y. Wang
Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, NM 87501;
Department of Anthropological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305;
Institute of Linguistics,
Academia Sinica, Taiwan 11529; and
Department of Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720
Communicated by Murray Gell-Mann, Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, NM, November 23, 2003 (received for review January 4, 2002)
The Kusunda people of central Nepal have long been regarded as
a relic tribe of South Asia. They are, or were until recently,
seminomadic hunter-gatherers, living in jungles and forests, with
a language that shows no similarities to surrounding languages.
They are often described as shorter and darker than neighboring
tribes. Our research indicates that the Kusunda language is a
member of the Indo-Pacific family. This is a surprising finding
inasmuch as the Indo-Pacific family is located on New Guinea and
surrounding islands. The possibility that Kusunda is a remnant of
the migration that led to the initial peopling of New Guinea and
Australia warrants additional investigation from both a linguistic
and genetic perspective.
he Kusunda people of central Nepal are one of the few
‘‘relic’’ tribes found on the Indian subcontinent (the Nahali
of India and the Veddas of Sri Lanka are two others). They first
appeared in the ethnographic literature in 1848, when they were
described by Hodgson as follows: ‘‘Amid the dense forests of the
central region of Ne´pa´l, to the westward of the great valley,
dwell, in scanty numbers and nearly in a state of nature, two
broken tribes having no apparent affinity with the civilized races
of that country, and seeming like the fragments of an earlier
population’’ (1). The Kusunda were one of these ‘‘broken tribes’’;
the Chepang were the other. Hodgson went on to show, however,
that the Chepang were, on linguistic grounds, closely related to
the Lhopa of Bhutan and must be presumed to have split off
from this group and moved west at some time in the past.
Hodgson had been unable to obtain any data on the Kusunda
language, so nothing could be said of their possible affinity with
other groups. Nine years later Hodgson published an article that
contained the first linguistic data on the Kusunda language (2)
as well as data on other Nepalese languages, but he offered no
specific discussion of Kusunda even though his data showed
quite clearly that the Kusunda language bore virtually no re-
semblance to any of the other languages he examined. No
additional information on Kusunda appeared for more than a
century until Reinhard and Toba (3) offered a brief description
of the language, which provided some additional data. The final
source on Kusunda appeared in an article by Reinhard in 1976
(4), but there is very little additional information that is not
already found in the article by Reinhard and Toba (3).
Although Hodgson had predicted in 1848 the demise of the
Kusunda in a few generations, a few Kusunda have managed to
survive to the present day. Until recently they were seminomadic
hunter-gatherers living in jungles and forests, and indeed their
name for themselves is ‘‘people of the forest.’’ They are often
described as short in stature and having a darker skin color than
surrounding tribes. Today the few remaining Kusunda have
intermarried with neighboring tribes and drifted apart, and the
language has been moribund for decades, although a few elderly
speakers with some knowledge of the language still survive.
The Kusunda language is a linguistic isolate, with no clear
genetic connections to any other language or language family (4,
5). Curiously, however, it has often been misclassified as a
Tibeto-Burman language for purely accidental reasons. Hodg-
son’s original description of the Kusunda language (2) also
included vocabularies of various Indic and Tibeto-Burman lan-
guages. In 1909, Grierson classified Kusunda as a Tibeto-
Burman language (6), like that of their immediate neighbors, the
Chepang, who also were forest dwellers and spoke a Tibeto-
Burman language. Later scholars often assumed, without look-
ing at the data collected by Hodgson, that Kusunda was a
Tibeto-Burman language. Kusunda was classified essentially on
the basis of its neighbor’s language, not its own, and this error
perpetuated itself similar to a scribal error in a medieval
manuscript (7–9).
We have discovered evidence that the Kusunda language is in
fact a member of the Indo-Pacific family of languages (10). The
Indo-Pacific family historically occupied a vast area from the
Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean to the Solomon Islands in
the Pacific. Today most Indo-Pacific languages are found on New
Guinea, where there are 700 surviving languages. Most of the
western languages have disappeared as a consequence of the
Austronesian expansion, but several ancient branches have
survived on the Andaman Islands, the North Moluccas (North
Halmahera and its smaller neighbors), and the lesser Sundas
(Timor, Alor, and Pantar). East of New Guinea, Indo-Pacific
languages survive on New Britain, New Ireland, the Solomon
Islands, Rossel Island, and the Santa Cruz Islands. They also
were spoken in Tasmania until 1876. The distribution of
Kusunda and the Indo-Pacific family is shown in Fig. 1. Although
it is not possible with present evidence to demonstrate conclu-
sively the direction of the migration that separated Kusunda
from the other Indo-Pacific languages, it would seem at least
plausible that Kusunda is a remnant of the original migration to
New Guinea and Australia rather than a backtracking to Nepal
from the region in which other Indo-Pacific languages are
spoken currently.
Recently, two molecular genetic studies (11, 12) have found
that the Andamanese belong to mtDNA haplogroup M, which is
found also in East Asia and South Asia and has been interpreted
as ‘‘a genetic indicator of the migration of modern Homo sapiens
from eastern Africa toward Southeast Asia, Australia, and
Oceania’’ (11). In addition, the Andamanese belong to the
Asia-specific Y chromosome haplogroup D. Thangaraj et al. (11)
conclude that ‘‘the presence of a hitherto unidentified subset of
the mtDNA Asian haplogroup M, and the Asian-specific Y
chromosome D, is consistent with the view that the Andamanese
are the descendants of Paleolithic peoples who might have been
widely dispersed in Asia in the past.’’ If molecular genetic
evidence can be obtained from the few remaining Kusunda, it
will be interesting to determine whether it supports the conclu-
sions we have arrived at on the basis of their language.
Grammatical Evidence
Linguistic evidence on Kusunda is sparse, limited to just three
sources (2–4), and there are some discrepancies between Hodg-
son’s 19th-century data and the late 20th-century recordings of
Reinhard and Toba (3, 4). For example, Hodgson, using a simple
English orthography, represents the Kusunda affricates as ch and
j, indicating that he heard them as palatal: [cˇ] and [
]. Reinhard
and Toba, however, represent the affricates as [ts] and [dz] and
state explicitly that they are alveolar, not palatal. In this article,
To whom correspondence should be addressed at: 4335 Cesano Court, Palo Alto, CA 94306.
© 2004 by The National Academy of Sciences of the USA
April 13, 2004
vol. 101
no. 15 www.pnas.orgcgidoi10.1073pnas.0400233101
the source of each Kusunda form is identified as follows. Words
from Reinhard and Toba (3) are taken as the default; words from
Hodgson (2) are followed by (H); and words from Reinhard (4)
are followed by (R). Sources for the other Indo-Pacific languages
mentioned in this article are given in Supporting Appendix 1,
which is published as supporting information on the PNAS web
Within this relatively small and imperfect corpus there is
grammatical and lexical evidence pointing toward an Indo-
Pacific affinity. The strongest piece of evidence is a pronominal
pattern found in the independent pronouns (involving five
different parameters) that is widespread in Indo-Pacific and also
found in Kusunda in precisely the same form. These five defining
features are: (i) a first-person pronoun based on t;(ii)a
second-person pronoun based on n or M;(iii) a third-person
pronoun based on g or k;(iv) a vowel alternation in the first- and
second-person pronouns in which u occurs in subject forms and
i in possessive (or oblique) forms; and (v) a possessive suffix -yi
found on all three personal pronouns. It is significant that four
of these five defining features have to do with the first- and
second-person singular pronouns, which are known to be among
the most stable elements of language over time (13). Indeed, it
is such pronouns that have often been the first evidence for very
ancient families such as Eurasiatic and Amerind.
In his original article defining the Indo-Pacific family, Green-
berg (10) posited two basic pronominal patterns, nk ‘‘Iyou’’
and tM n ‘‘Iyou,’’ and he suggested that the second set
originally had a possessive function. However, subsequent re-
search has cast doubt on the antiquity of second-person k, the
distribution of which is largely confined to New Guinea itself. In
any event, it is the second pattern that Kusunda shares with
Indo-Pacific. One finds both Mi and ni as the second-person
pronoun; Greenberg surmised that Mi had been the original form
and had changed to ni in some languages as a simple sound
change and in others to ni by analogy with the very widespread
na ‘‘I’’ of the first pronominal pattern. Greenberg did not notice,
however, in his pioneering article either the vowel alternation or
the possessive suffix -yi. Table 1 shows the first-, second-, and
third-person pronouns for Kusunda and selected Indo-Pacific
In Kusunda the vowel alternation has only been preserved in
the second person, having been eliminated through analogy in
the first-person form. Furthermore, first-person *t- has been
palatalized to ch- (H), ts-,ortsh- (R) under the influence of the
following -i. Such a sound change is extremely common in the
worlds languages, and in the present case we can be sure that the
original consonant was t-, because t- has been preserved in both
the object form ton ‘‘me’’ and in first-person plural to-
i ‘‘we’’ (-
is a plural suffix). In addition to the independent pronouns, the
consonantal base also indicates the verbal subject: Kusunda t-
‘‘I,’’ n- ‘‘you,’’ g- ‘‘he,’’ Bea d- ‘‘I,’’ M- ‘‘you,’’ Onge M- ‘‘you,’’ g-
‘‘he,’’ West Makien tV- ‘‘I,’’ nV ‘‘you,’’ and Brat t- ‘‘I,’’ n- ‘‘you.’’
The other Indo-Pacific languages in Table 1 have preserved
different portions of the original system. It is best preserved in
the Andaman Islands (Juwoi, Bo) and North Halmahera
(Galela), whereas in Western New Guinea (Seget, Karon Dori),
Fig. 1. Location of Indo-Pacific languages. K, Kusunda; A, Andaman Islands; H, Halmahera; T, Timor-Alor-Pantar; NG, New Guinea; NB, New Britain; NI, New
Ireland; SI, Solomon Islands; SC, Santa Cruz Islands; R, Rossel Island; TS, Tasmania.
Whitehouse et al. PNAS
April 13, 2004
vol. 101
no. 15
New Britain (Kuot), and the Solomon Islands (Savosavo), only
the consonants are preserved, in some cases only partially. The
final language in Table 1, Bunak, is spoken on Timor and
obviously does not preserve either the first-person t or second-
person Mn; it does, however, preserve third-person gi, and the
possessive suffix is attached to all three pronouns, just as in
Certainly this unique pronominal pattern shared by Kusunda
and Indo-Pacific languages cannot be a case of accidental
convergence, because the probability that Kusunda could have
invented this intricate pattern independently is vanishingly small.
Borrowing is equally unlikely, because there is no evidence that
Kusunda has ever been in contact with any Indo-Pacific lan-
Two other grammatical formatives shared by Kusunda and
Indo-Pacific are demonstrative pronouns based on t and n.
This. Kusunda ta (H) ‘‘this,’’ yit ‘‘that’’ Indo-Pacific: Puchikwar
ite, Juwoi ete, Abui i(t)-do, Konda ete, Itik ide, Biaka te
he,’’ Kwomtari itl ‘‘he,’’ Timbe idaˆ ‘‘this, that,’’ Selepet eda,
Marind iti-, Minanibai eti ‘‘he,’’ Humene ida.
That. Kusunda na ‘‘this’’ Indo-Pacific: West Makian ne ‘‘this,’’
Abun ne ‘‘that (specific), the, he,’’ (mo-)ne ‘‘there,’’ Brat no,
Tabla na ‘‘this,’’ Sentani nie, Urama na, Tate ne, Dimir ne-t
Lexical Evidence
Complementing the grammatical evidence are a number of
lexical similarities that also point to an Indo-Pacific affinity.
Some of the most convincing are given below. We do not give
here all the supporting etymologies or all the supporting forms
for each etymology. Rather, we have chosen for each etymology
a sample of the forms from different regions of the Indo-Pacific
family. The meaning of each form is the same as the head
meaning unless specified otherwise.
Breast. Kusunda ambu Indo-Pacific: Sawuy a
m, Korowai am,
Wambon om, Ivori aamugo
, Gogodala omo, Gaima omo
‘‘milk,’’ Waia amo, Gibaio a
, Wabuda amo, Tebera ami,
Ekagi ama, Chimbu amu-na, Wahgi am, Purari ame, Yekora
ami, Yoda amu, Koita amu, Neme yama, Morawa ama, Arawum
ammu, Usu amu-, Kamba auma, Biyom ami, Katiati ama, Musak
u, Tani ame, Wanembre emi.
Daylight. Kusunda jina ïkya (H) ‘‘light’’ Indo-Pacific: Onge eke
‘‘sun,’’ ekue ‘‘day, today,’’ Momuna iki
‘‘sun,’’ Tabla yakau
‘‘morning,’’ Tofamna yaku ‘‘sun,’’ Fas ylklvl ‘‘sun,’’ Bisorio yagi
‘‘sun,’’ Enga yaMama ‘‘morning,’’ Tunjuamu yagu ‘‘day,’’ Gidra
yuge-bibese (-bibese ‘‘day’’).
Dog. Kusunda agai (H), agli Indo-Pacific: Woisika waMgu,
Sentani yoku, Grand Valley Dani yekke yege, South Ngalik
yeMge, Aghu yaMgi, Kaeti aMga, Yelmek agoa, Noraia aga, Gidra
yauga, Siroi age.
EarthGround. Kusunda doma (H) ‘‘earth,’’ tuma´i (H) ‘‘below’’
Indo-Pacific: Tobelo timi ‘‘underneath,’’ Kwesten tum, Mombum
tumor, Dibiri toma, Grand Valley Dani tom dom, Ngalik dom,
Fasu tomo ‘‘underneath,’’ Sene dome ‘‘underneath,’’ Gende teme
‘‘underneath,’’ Yeletnye tyamï.
Egg. Kusunda gwa´ go´a¨ (H), goa Indo-Pacific: Onge gwagane
‘‘turtle egg,’’ Tanglupui kwa ‘‘fruit,’’ Bunak otel go ‘‘fruit’’ (otel
‘‘tree’’), Kampong Baru uku, Inanwatan go
u, Solowat gu go,
Eritai oko, Waritai ko, Asmat oka, Demta kuku, Sangke kwe-kwe,
Sko ku, Ngala gwi, Moni ugwa ua ‘‘fruit,’’ Oksapmin gwe ‘‘egg,
seed,’’ Menya qwi, Amele wagbo, Atemple aku.
Eye. Kusunda chining (H), ta-inin, iniM (R) Indo-Pacific:
Warapu ini, Oirata ina, Woisika -eM, Kui -en, Abui -eM, Yahadian
ni, Mor na(-)na, West Kewa ini, Koiari ni ‘‘eye, face,’’ Magi ini,
Morara ni
i, Yabura ni
aba, Yareba niapa.
. Kusunda mlm ‘‘older brother,’’ mlm (R) ‘‘older brother,
fathers sisters older son, mothers sisters older son’’ Indo-
Pacific: Abui mama, Moi -mam-, Arandai mame, Eipo mam
‘‘mothers brother,’’ Demta mami, Manambu mam ‘‘older
brother,’’ Angoram mam, Korowai mom ‘‘mothers brother,’’
Huli mama ‘‘grandfather,’’ Kobon mam ‘‘brother,’’ Kate ma-
-, Kwale mama, Pulabu mama, Saep mam, Jilim momo,
Bongu mem, Kare momo-, Sihan meme-, Samosa mame-, Wamas
mama-, Garuh mam, Mugil -mam, Kuot mamo, Baining mam,
Taulil mama, Baniata mama.
. Kusunda yei Indo-Pacific: Isam eya, Bauzi ai, Gresi
aya, Nimboran aya, Taikat aya, Yuri ayl, Dera aya, Kwomtari
, Busa aiya(
), Amto aiya, Urat yai, Yis aya, Seti aya, Wiaki
yaye, Hewa aiya, Amal aya, Siagha aye, Dibolug iaia, Ekagi aiya
‘‘great grandfather,’’ Sausi ai- ‘‘older sibling (same sex),’’ Danaru
aya ‘‘older sibling (same sex),’’ Utu aya, Baniata ai.
Fire. Kusunda ja´ (H), dza, dza
(R) Indo-Pacific: Pawaian sia,
Tebera si, Bisorio tseya ‘‘tree, fire,’’ Gahuku dza ‘‘tree,’’ Kamano
zafa ‘‘tree,’’ Gadsup yaa(-ni) ‘‘tree,’’ Kate dza- ‘‘(it) burns,’’
Mape dza- ‘‘(it) burns,’’ Burum dze- ‘‘(it) burns,’’ Nabak dzi- ‘‘(it)
burns,’’ Selepet si- ‘‘(it) burns,’’ Aeka (d)zi, Orokaiva dzii.
Give. Kusunda a´i (H), ya-gan, ya-wu ‘‘give! (imperative)’’
Indo-Pacific: Juwoi a-, Jarawa a
ya, Bale oa-, Brat -e, Hatam -yai
‘‘take, give,’’ Sentani ye, Manem ya, Elepi yau, Kamasau nieg
Table 1. An Indo-Pacic pronominal pattern
Kusunda Juwoi Bo Galela Seget Karon Dori Kuot Savosavo Bunak
I chi (H) tui tu-l to tet tuo -tuo ne-
tshi (R)
my chı´-yi (H) tii-ye ti-e
i ‘‘me’’ n-ie
you nu (H) ŋui ŋu-l no nen nuo -nuo no e-
nu (R)
your nı´-yı´ (H) ŋii-ye ni ‘‘thee’’ Ø-ie
heshe gida (H) kit kit gao go gi
hishers gida-yı´ (H) g-ie
www.pnas.orgcgidoi10.1073pnas.0400233101 Whitehouse et al.
‘‘give it to me,’’ Wambon yo-, Riantana yl , Maklew -ai-, Gidra
ai(o), Northeast Kiwai ai.
Knee. Kusunda tugutu Indo-Pacific: Onge i-tokwage ‘‘elbow,’’
Bale togo ‘‘wrist,’’ Puchikwar togur ‘‘ankle,’’ Juwoi togar ‘‘ankle,’’
Sahu dodoMa ‘‘joint,’’ Karas taMgum ‘‘elbow,’’ Iha -tuMun ‘‘elbow,
knee,’’ Baham -tuMgon ‘‘elbow, knee,’’ Kampong Baru -tuguno
‘‘elbow,’’ Arandai -tuge-do ‘‘elbow,’’ Bo na-toku ‘‘elbow’’ (na-
‘‘arm’’), South Ngalik -(e)dokodu, Biami toku ‘‘elbow,’’ Kapri-
man st
wa ‘‘elbow,’’ Keladdar tuM ‘‘elbow,’’ Kimaghama
‘‘elbow,’’ Karima si-tuku ‘‘elbow’’ (si- ‘‘arm’’), Kebenagara
duMwat ‘‘elbow,’’ Tonda doModi ‘‘elbow,’’ Kesawai toko ‘‘elbow,
knee,’’ Pulabu tuMgai ‘‘elbow,’’ Musar tukumaM ‘‘elbow.’’
Liver. Kusunda kammu, qamu (R) Indo-Pacific: Kauwerawet
okum, Agob kam(o) ‘‘belly, stomach, guts,’’ Gidra komu ‘‘belly,
guts,’’ Karima kamo, Binandare gomo, Sausi kamo, Siroi gamu,
Kwato kamamu, Panim geml-, Silopi kemu-, Utu gemu-, Saruga
gam-, Musak kum
‘‘liver, belly,’’ Mugil -gem ‘‘belly,’’ Dimir
kamemaM ‘‘lung,’’ Korak -gom, Ulingan kema, Musar gema
Morning. Kusunda gorak (H) ‘‘tomorrow,’’ goraq ‘‘tomorrow,’’
dzi ‘‘this morning’’ Indo-Pacific: Onge gegariko-, Kosarek
kwelek-nak, Bine koroke, Kunini korokerage, Meriam geragl,
Enga koraka ‘‘day,’’ Moere kuru-kia, Sulka kolkha.
Mountain. Kusunda dibi
oM ‘‘hill’’ Indo-Pacific: Sahu tubu
‘‘summit,’’ Iha tlber, Kosarek dub ‘‘mountain peak,’’ Suki dipra
‘‘hill,’’ Foe tuma duma, Yaben tabl
nu, Bilua sopu.
River. Kusunda widel ‘‘flow (noun)’’ Indo-Pacific: Baham
ûa, Iha wadar, Puragi owedo, Aikwakai wetai, Siagha wedi, Pisa
wadi, Aghu widi, Kombai wodei, South Kati ok-wiri (ok- ‘‘wa-
ter’’), Awin waiduo ‘‘Fly River.’’
Root. Kusunda itak ‘‘root, tuber’’ Indo-Pacific: Bojigiab cok,
Juwoi c
k-, Bale cag-, Moni taki, Bogaya tako, Binumarien tuka,
Wiru teke, Kire t
Run. Kusunda gorgo-wo´to (H) Indo-Pacific: Gogodala gigira,
Pulabu guru-, Usino gururw, Danaru Mguruguru-, Jilim guru-,
Rerau gur-, Duduela guri-, Male gur-, Bemal gurgure-, Sihan
ure-, Isebe guguli-, Panim gugul-, Bau gu
ur-, Baimak kura-,
Gal gur-, Sulka guruM, Buin kuro-.
Sand. Kusunda glli Indo-Pacific: Sougb gria, Tao-Sumato giri,
Podopa kekere gegera, Keuru kekelea, Orokolo kekele, Elema
kekere, Opao kekere, Kosarek kirik-aMer, Yafi glllk glrlk, Dera
Short. Kusunda potol Indo-Pacific: Fayu bosa ‘‘small,’’ Sehu-
date buse ‘‘small,’’ Monumbo put, Bahinemo bYt
a, Northeast
Tasmanian pute pote ‘‘small,’’ Southeast Tasmanian pute
‘‘small,’’ Middle Eastern Tasmanian pote ‘‘small.’’
Shoulder. Kusunda plnaq ‘‘shoulder strap for net bag’’ Indo-
Pacific: Kede ben, Puchikwar ben ‘‘shoulder blade,’’ Bojigiab ben,
Iha mbeM nbeM, Kwerba pan ban ‘‘upper arm,’’ Manambu
ban ‘‘back,’’ Yelogu bwlnylgïr ‘‘back,’’ Murik pinagep p
nagemb, Pogaya peni, Tirio pauna, Yei mbiMg, Waia bena, North
East Kiwai bena, Ipikoi beno, Fuyuge bano ‘‘spine.’’
Today. Kusunda ibe ‘‘today,’’ ibl ‘‘now’’ Indo-Pacific: Inanwa-
tan abo ‘‘morning,’’ Momuna abee, Taikat yabui ‘‘morning,’’
Kwoma a
a, Washkuk apa, Yei abete, Bugi yabada ‘‘day, sun,’’
Ekagi abata ‘‘morning,’’ Pole ambi ‘‘today,’’ ambi-ati ‘‘now,’’
Awa apiae ahbiyah ‘‘tomorrow,’’ Lemio yampir ‘‘dawn,’’ Usu
iblte ‘‘tomorrow,’’ Bongu yamba ‘‘tomorrow,’’ Garuh abera
‘‘morning,’’ Atemple ambïre ‘‘tomorrow, yesterday,’’ Yaben
balima ‘‘tomorrow,’’ Siwai imba ‘‘now.’’
Tree. Kusunda í (H), yi, ii (R) Indo-Pacific: Sentani i ‘‘fire,’’
Biaka yei
‘‘fire,’’ Kwomtari i
‘‘fire,’’ Rocky Peak yyu ‘‘fire,’’
Siagha yi, Kombai e, Girara ei, Gogodala i
, Kairi i ‘‘tree, fire,’’
Tumu ii, Kibiri i, Mena
i, Pawaian i(n), Kasua i,Paı˜, Angaataha
i-patï [-patï (class prefix)], Fuyuge i(-ye) ‘‘tree, wood,’’ Zia i, Notu
yi, Yeletnye yi.
Unripe. Kusunda ka´tuk (H) ‘‘bitter,’’ qatu ‘‘bitter’’ Indo-Pacific:
Kede kat ‘‘bad,’’ Chariar kedeM ‘‘bad,’’ Juwoi kadak ‘‘bad (char-
acter),’’ Moi kasi, Biaka kwatlkl ‘‘green,’’ Grand Valley Dani
katekka ‘‘green,’’ Foe k
asigi, Siagha kada
ai, Kaeti ketet,
Orokolo kairuka ‘‘green,’’ Doromu kati, Northeast Tasmanian
kati ‘‘bad,’’ Southeast Tasmanian kati ‘‘bad.’’
Woman. Kusunda puan ‘‘co-wife’’ Indo-Pacific: Bunak pana
fana ‘‘woman, wife,’’ Oirata panar ‘‘female (of animal),’’ Moni
pane ‘‘girl,’’ Brat vaniya, Yava wanya, Pole wena, West Kewa
wena, Forei wa
nyi ‘‘wife,’’ Yekora bana, Dumpu fan, Kolom
plno, Tauya fena
This article was written as part of the Santa Fe Institutes program on the
Evolution of Human Languages, directed by Murray Gell-Mann, and we
gratefully acknowledge their support, the support of City University of
Hong Kong (Grants 901001 and CERG 9040781 to W.S.-Y.W., Principal
Investigator), where part of the article was written, and the invaluable
assistance of Ruth Thurman at the Summer Institute of Linguistics office
in Papua, New Guinea.
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Whitehouse et al. PNAS
April 13, 2004
vol. 101
no. 15
... Importantly, within the East Asian-Oceanian clade, the Kusunda from Nepal are placed as a sister group to all the other groups. The earlier claims that Kusunda language is a member of the Indo-Pacific macrofamily (Whitehouse et al. 2004) remains highly controversial. Kusunda should be considered a language isolate (Blench 2008). ...
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Over the past three decades, modern human origins and dispersal have been investigated using phylogenetic analyses of genetic and linguistic data. As a result, a large body of phylogenetic hypotheses is available for formal meta-analysis. Here we present a “matrix representation with parsimony” (MRP) supertree of 1,962 human populations, based on 388 genetic and linguistic phylogenies. This supertree represents a comprehensive global phylogeny of extant human populations, covering all world regions and ~100 language families (including isolates). It is in near-perfect agreement with phylogeny based on supermatrix (concatenation) analysis, showing that these conceptually different approaches to phylogenetic inference tend to produce a similar phylogenetic pattern of global human population. Although human population history is certainly not purely tree-like, there is an underlying hierarchical structure (especially at deeper levels) that can be hypothesized as phylogeny. However, the question of large-scale coevolution between genes and languages must be reassessed critically since most of the well-substantiated language families do not form genetically consistent groups. A tree-like model of human population history provides a useful tool for assessing the congruence and conflict between genetic and linguistic data and for studying cultural evolution.
... Merging Kusunda, a language isolate in Nepal, Andamanese, such as Aka-Jeru, non-Austronesian Melanesian, Papuan Aboriginal, and now extinct Tasmanian languages into the hypothetical Indo-Pacific superfamily has been rejected by mainstream linguistics, although it was acknowledged for partially contributing to the establishment of the currently accepted Trans-New Guinea family (Wurm 1982). However, its apologists argue that its extraordinary oldness of up to 55,000 years and the subsequent divisions to the mutually remote places are the main cases of the obscurity of their common origin, which, nevertheless, may be demonstrated on very fundamental levels (Greenberg 1971, Ruhlen 1994, Whitehouse et al. 2004). The debate pro et contra the existence of the Indo-Pacific family and its structure is still going on, addressing not only linguists, but also anthropologists and archaeologists (Clark et al. 2017). ...
Lexicon of Pulse Crops integrates botanical and linguistic data to analyze and interpret the grain legume significance from the earliest archaeological and written records until the present day. Aimed at both agronomic and linguistic research communities, this book presents a database containing 9,500 common names in more than 900 languages and dialects of all ethnolinguistic families, denoting more than 1,100 botanical taxa of 14 selected pulse crop genera and species. The book begins with overviews of the world’s economically most important grain legume crops and their uncultivated relatives, as well as the world’s language families with their inner structure, including both extinct and living members. The main section of the text presents 14 specialized book chapters covering Arachis, Cajanus, Cicer, Ervum, Faba, Glycine, Lablab, Lathyrus, Lens, Lupinus, Phaseolus, Pisum, Vicia, and Vigna. They provide the reader with extensive lists of the botanically accepted species and subtaxa and surveys lexicological abundance in all world’s ethnolinguistic families, comprising extinct and living as well as natural and constructed languages, while the vernacular names for the most significant taxa are presented in comprehensive tables. Each of these chapters also presents the existing etymologies and novel approaches to deciphering the origins of common names, accompanied by one original colour plate depicting possible root evolutions in the form of corresponding pulse crop plants. Other details may be found at the official book web page,
... No one has proposed a third possibility, at least for the northern half of this landmass, 53 and the nearest macro-families, in southern Eurasia, appear to be Afro-Asiatic (to the southwest) and Austric (to the southeast). The intriguing possibility of yet another macro-family, Indo-Pacific, on the Eurasian landmass has been posited by Whitehouse, et al. (2004). 54 But the work is far from finished. ...
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This paper discusses the development of hypotheses of classification of the languages of northern Eurasia, from the early "Scythian" hypothesis to the later Nostratic, Eurasiatic, Sino-Caucasian, and Dene-Caucasian proposals. The concept of scientific "proof" is discussed and contrasted with an alternative concept of "best explanation." Eurasiatic and Dene-Caucasian can then be viewed as testable and fruitful hypotheses that, so far, provide the best explanations for language diversification in northern Eurasia.
... Kusunda is the linguistic descendants of an aboriginal population who inhabited the Himalayan region before the entry of the Sino-Tibetan and Indo-Europeans ( van Driem, 2001). They are also known as "Ban Raja" (People of forest (Whitehouse et al., 2004). However, in the light of current available genetic evidence it is very hard to believe on this putative link. ...
A contextual insight is offered into the history of Nepalese forestry management with reference to women. First, the chapter provides insight into the importance of forest resources for Nepalese people. It reflects how different sections of the population (economically poor, economically well off, men, women, urban dwellers, village dwellers) use forests for various purposes. It also illustrates the existence of two-way relationships between people and forests and the involvement and contribution of people in the maintenance of state forest resources in Nepal. This section concludes that the people living closest to Nepal’s forests, usually in remote and rural areas of the country, have a greater dependency on forest resources. Within these communities, women and economically disadvantaged individuals rely most heavily on forests. It is therefore important to include these groups in decision-making and planning regarding forestry policy, processes and outcomes to ensure that resources are managed sustainably.
Quantification in Kusunda can be generally described as involving radical underspecification. Many syntactic traits of quantification are shared in outline with other kinds of modification in the phrase and in the clause, and the level of underspecification is also shared with other subsystems of the language. Quantification in Kusunda, then, can be described as not showing significant variance from the general architecture of the language, and not appearing to tightly delimit the range of possibilities for identification or enumeration of arguments or events.
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How are relationships established between the world's languages? This is one of the most topical and most controversial questions in contemporary linguistics. The central aims of this book are to answer this question, to cut through the controversies, and to contribute to research in distant genetic relationships. In doing this the authors aim to: (1) show how the methods have been employed; (2) reveal which methods, techniques, and strategies have proven successful and which ones have proven ineffective; (3) determine how particular language families were established; (4) evaluate several of the most prominent and more controversial proposals of distant genetic relationship (such as Amerind, Nostratic, Eurasiatic, Proto-World, and others); and (5) make recommendations for practice in future research. This book will contribute significantly to understanding language classification in general. © Lyle Campbell and William J. Poser and Cambridge University Press, 2009.
The languages of the Indigenous peoples of Tasmania became extinct in the late nineteenth century and only very fragmentary records remain. What is known about the languages and the conclusions of mainstream linguists are briefly described. As a consequence of the difficulties in interpreting this material, hypotheses concerning the classification of the languages have been the focus of a variety of theories linked to the peopling of Tasmania, some of which are best described as highly speculative. The paper reviews a selection of these theories and the controversies concerning them. It focuses particularly on a new version of Joseph Greenberg's 'Indo-Pacific' theory and the problematic nature of such publications, as well as claims that the 'true' history of Negrito peoples has been air-brushed from the record as a consequence of political correctness.
This book is an ambitious work on mythology. Focusing on the oldest available texts, buttressed by data from archeology, comparative linguistics, and human population genetics, this book reconstructs a single original African source for our collective myths, dating back some 100,000 years. Identifying features shared by this "Out of Africa" mythology and its northern Eurasian offshoots, this book suggests that these common myths-recounted by the communities of the "African Eve"-are the earliest evidence of ancient spirituality. Moreover these common features, the book shows, survive today in all major religions.
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Against a background of intermittent faunal exchanges between Africa and Eurasia over millions of years, we argue that evidence from three sub-fields of Anthropology point to two dispersions of Homo sapiens sapiens and human language out of Africa. The first dispersion clustered around 100 kya and clearly associated with the Middle Stone Age, probably settled most of tropical Eurasia and most of insular Southeast Asia, reaching Australia and New Guinea around 60 kya. No dispersion north of India happened, the human advance being confined to south Eurasia and the tropics up to Melanesia. Contact and inter-breeding with Neanderthals and their cousins, the Denisovans, probably slowed or confined the human progress beyond the tropics. Then, we argue that a second major dispersion occurred around 50 ky later, often called the " Aurignacian " and associated with the linguistic phyletic chain called Borean, This second dispersion from Africa was the source of the Upper Paleolithic in Eurasia and most modern languages of Eurasia and all in the Americas. Oriented around the 'four fields' model of historical anthropology, the disciplines involved were biological anthropology, archeology, and historical linguistics.
Mitochondrial sequences were retrieved from museum specimens of the enigmatic Andaman Islanders to analyze their evolutionary history. D-loop and protein-coding data reveal that phenotypic similarities with African pygmoid groups are convergent. Genetic and epigenetic data are interpreted as favoring the long-term isolation of the Andamanese, extensive population substructure, and/or two temporally distinct settlements. An early colonization featured populations bearing mtDNA lineage M2, and this lineage is hypothesized to represent the phylogenetic signal of an early southern movement of humans through Asia. The results demonstrate that Victorian anthropological collections can be used to study extinct, or seriously admixed populations, to provide new data about early human origins.
The Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal are inhabited by hunter-gatherers of unknown origin, now on the verge of extinction. The Andamanese and other Asian small-statured peoples, traditionally known as "Negritos," resemble African pygmies. However, it is generally believed that they descend from the early Australo-Melanesian settlers of Southeast Asia and that their resemblance to some Africans is due to adaptation to a similar environment, rather than shared origins. We analyzed mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences and RFLP polymorphisms, and Y chromosome biallelic markers and microsatellites, in present-day Andamanese of the Onge, Jarawa, and Great Andamanese tribes, and of inhabitants of the neighboring Nicobar Islands. We also analyzed mtDNA sequences from Andamanese hair samples collected by an ethnographer during 1906-1908. Living Andamanese exhibit low genetic variability that is consistent with their small population size and reproductive isolation. Our data indicate that the Andamanese have closer affinities to Asian than to African populations and suggest that they are the descendants of the early Palaeolithic colonizers of Southeast Asia. In contrast, the Nicobarese have genetic affinities to groups widely distributed throughout Asia today, presumably descended from Neolithic agriculturalists.
A Preliminary Linguistic Analysis and Vocabulary of the Kusunda Language
  • Reinhard J Toba
Reinhard, J. & Toba, T. (1970) A Preliminary Linguistic Analysis and Vocabulary of the Kusunda Language (Summer Institute of Linguistics, Kirtipur, Nepal).
Languages of the Himalayas The Neth-erlands)
  • Van Driem
van Driem, G. (2001) Languages of the Himalayas (Brill, Leiden, The Neth-erlands), Vol. 1, p. 258.