Austronesian Languages

This week’s essay, on language change:

The language family that interested me the most was the Austronesian family, a group of languages that originated from Taiwan and from there spread across both the Pacific and Indian oceans, eventually spanning from Madagascar, off the coast of Africa, to Easter Island, almost to South America. The spread of this family of languages parallels an amazing migration of human beings across vast stretches of ocean, using seacraft that would be considered little more than rafts in our time. As these people moved across the world, they brought with them their language and culture to many isolated locations in the middle of the sea. There are several interesting popular works of fiction that dramatize these events. A movie called “Rapa Nui” is a story about the demise of civilization on Easter Island. The book “Hawaii” by James Michener contains a long prologue that describes how the islands of Hawaii were discovered by explorers from the distant islands of Tahiti. (A lot of people stop reading the book after finishing the prologue as they find it more compelling than the main story.)