Austronesia: Madagascar to Hawaii

April 24 2014

The widest term for the languages and cultures, not racial identities, of Malaya, Madagascar, Sumatra, Java, Taiwan (before the Chinese), the Philippines, Borneo, Micronesia, Melanesia, New Zealand, Polynesia, Hawaii is Austronesian.

Austronesian languages include Acehnese, Hawaiian, Javanese, Maori, Malagasy, Malay, Polynesian languages, Sundanese, Tagalog.

They are not to be confused with the much older Papuan and Australian languages. (New Guinea is outside the Austronesian space.)

It used to be thought that they had originated in Taiwan, from where large-scale migrations began after 5000 BC. The first Austronesian-speaking settlers were said to have landed in northern Luzon, where they intermingled with an older population.

Recently (2009) their origin has been placed further south, in Sundaland, the peninsula, before the end of the last Ice Age, that had extended the Asian landmass as far as Borneo and Java. Under this scenario, refugees from the rising seas migrated north to Taiwan.

Austronesian-speakers spread eastward to the islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia and westward to Madagascar. Sailing from Melanesia and Micronesia, they had discovered Polynesia by 1000 BC, Easter Island and Madagascar by AD 300, Hawaii by AD 400 and New Zealand by AD 1280. They reached South America and traded with Native Americans.

By the beginning of the first millennium CE, the Austronesian inhabitants of maritime Southeast Asia had begun trading with India and China. Hinduism and Buddhism were introduced and Indianised kingdoms established. By the tenth century Muslim traders had brought Islam, which gradually displaced the older religions. The Austronesian inhabitants of Polynesia were unaffected by these cultural migrations and diffusions and retained their indigenous culture.

Map of the Austronesian migrations, Wikimedia Commons, opens in a new window; a couple of the dates differ slightly from ones I have given:

Migraciones_austronesias

2 Responses to “Austronesia: Madagascar to Hawaii”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    Initial human settlement of Madagascar occurred between 350 BC and AD 550 by Austronesian peoples arriving on outrigger canoes from Borneo. They were joined around AD 1000 by Bantu migrants crossing the Mozambique Channel.

    Presumably only the western islands of Polynesia had been reached by 1000 BC.


  2. […] have done a post on Austronesia. Austronesian languages include Malay, Polynesian languages and […]


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