The Austronesian Languages of Asia and Madagascar

A Historical Perspective

Authored by: Alexander Adelaar

The Austronesian Languages of Asia and Madagascar

Print publication date:  November  2004
Online publication date:  March  2013

Print ISBN: 9780700712861
eBook ISBN: 9780203821121
Adobe ISBN: 9781136755101


 Download Chapter



The Austronesian language family has about 1,200 members, which together are spoken by some 270 million people. It is arguably the largest existing language family in terms of the number of its member languages (making up for 20% of the world’s languages) and it is second in terms of its geographic spread (after the Indo-European language family). Austronesian languages range from Malagasy (in Madagascar and on the island of Mayotte) in the western part of the Indian Ocean to Rapanui or Easter Island in the southeastern part of the Pacific Ocean, and from the Formosan languages in Taiwan and Hawaiian in the northern reaches of the Pacific to Maori in New Zealand. The Philippines, Brunei, Polynesia, Micronesia, Melanesia and most of Indonesia and Malaysia are traditionally Austronesian-speaking, and there are pockets of Austronesian speakers on the Southeast Asian mainland in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma and Hainan (People’s Republic of China). As a result of colonial administration and its aftermath there are also pockets of Austronesian speakers in Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka Malay), South Africa (Malay but now extinct), Netherlands (Moluccan Malay, Javanese and various Moluccan languages), Surinam (Javanese), Australia (Malay, various East Timorese languages) and Portugal (various East Timorese languages).

Search for more...
Back to top

Use of cookies on this website

We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site. You can find out more in our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.