The Thinking of Speaking
Issue #5 September / October 2013
Letter From The Editor
Why Polynesian?
by Erik Zidowecki
September / October 2013 | 

Welcome to our Malayo-Polynesian special issue! Many of you are probably wondering why we are doing this issue which focuses mainly on the languages of this branch of the Austronesian languages. More of you are probably wondering what the languages of this branch are and what region they are from. You wouldn't be alone in wondering that.

When you talk about language families, most language learners will know what you mean when you talk about the Romance languages, or the Slavic and Germanic languages. If you mention Asian languages, they will probably think instantly of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. If you mention Celtic languages, they will surely be able to at least name Irish and Scottish as part of those.

But what are the Malayo-Polynesian languages? These are the ones that are used on a large number of islands and nation states in the Pacific, in the triangle formed by Asia, Australia, and the west coast of the United States. Some of the more popular locations of this area are easily recognizable, once you mention them. Many of them are the island paradises everyone talks about "getting away" to: Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, Bali. Others are ones that are mentioned, but you never really know where they are, like Madagascar and Indonesia. They are just "out there" somewhere.

The languages themselves number over a thousand. Some you might have heard of, such as the ones that go with those more common places: Hawaiian, Tahitian, Fijian, Balinese, Malagasy and Indonesian. You might also have heard of Tagalog (also known as Filipino), Javanese, Maori, Samoan, Tongan and Malay. But what do you know about them? Have you ever seen them written or heard them spoken?

The languages of this branch are rarely mentioned or even thought about, for there are so many in such a relatively small area of the world. Papa New Guinea alone has a few dozen of these languages on its island. With this special issue, we are hoping to get some people more interested in these language and the cultures surrounding them. Many of the languages and cultures are declining as they compete with the more dominant cultures of the area while others are thriving with the tourism of thousands of people visiting them every year. We are also working to add resources for a few of these languages to the site, Parleremo, and we welcome anything you might wish to contribute.

Erik Zidowecki

Letter From the Editor
Writer: Erik Zidowecki
Petey: Traditional dancer in Ubud

All images are Copyright - CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Share Alike) by their respective owners, except for Petey, which is Public Domain (PD) or unless otherwise noted.


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