This website is a free e-resource, from the book entitled 'Music, Lapita, and the Problem of Polynesian Origins' by Mervyn McLean. The complete text may be read either online or in paginated form as a downloadable pdf here.


Chapter 6


Sources of information on this topic include three earlier McLean publications (McLean 1979, 1994, 1999), and two later ones (McLean 2008, 2010). Also drawn upon as required are extensive data files of music structure traits in New Guinea and Island Melanesia, compiled from sources listed in McLean 1995, and from listening to and analysis of available audio recordings from these areas.


Music areas

The first of the above studies successfully distinguished music areas in Oceania using a statistical clustering method to identify co-occurring traits on a matrix of about 40 geographical areas and 40 selected musical traits including both musical instruments and structural elements of vocal music. Western and Eastern Polynesia emerged as strongly differentiated musically, confirming results reached on a variety of ethnographic grounds, including some musical ones, by Edwin Burrows (1938).

Specifically, with exceptions in some areas, these differences included the following (McLean 1999:453):

Western Instruments

Eastern Instruments



Large canoe-shaped slit gongs

Small bamboo-derived slit gongs

Nose flutes with both ends closed

Nose flutes with one end closed

Struck tubes


Rolled mats


Sounding boards




Western Structure

Eastern Structure




Engmelodik and quavering cadences



Polyplane and drone polyphony



Also of relevance to the present topic are pan-Polynesian traits characteristic both of the initial migrants into Eastern Polynesia and those left behind in the home area of Western Polynesia. In the musical instruments category or in lieu of them are body percussion, handclapping, jews harps, shell trumpets, leaf oboes, and sticks. Structural elements include spoken recitation (parlando), one-note melody (recto tono), responsorial and strophic forms, and spoken, shouted, and trailing cadences.

The differences between the two areas of Western and Eastern Polynesia, and uniformities within each could only have happened as a result of isolation and separate development of the two after the initial settlement of Eastern Polynesia from Western Polynesia about 2,000 years ago. Longevity of music traits and corresponding usefulness for analysis is proven by still extant shared music systems in the Marginal Eastern Polynesian cultures of Hawai'i, the Marquesas Islands, Mangareva, and NZ Maori that on archaeological and linguistic evidence have been separated for at least a thousand years. The uniformities of music in Marginal Eastern Polynesia, differing as they do from the kinds of music in central Eastern Polynesia, are a perfect illustration of the "stone in the pond" model of diffusion, with ripples spreading from the centre of origin to far-flung communities on the edge of the pond, which retain traits once characteristic of the centre. The package of marginal Polynesian musical traits is evidence of the kind of music practised by the original settlers of Eastern Polynesia. Also of relevance is a cluster of traits identified as Core Melanesian which can be shown to have influenced the music styles of Western Polynesia subsequent to the departure of the Eastern Polynesian settlers.

Finally, when the instrumental and structural associations in the 1979 paper were amalgamated, patterns of combined associations emerged, with some unexpected results. New Caledonia, for example, is almost universally regarded as part of Melanesia. The clustering study, however, showed its strongest musical links – especially for music structure – to be with Fiji and, through Fiji, ultimately with Western Polynesia. Thus, for music, New Caledonia and Fiji belong with Polynesia rather than with Melanesia, in evident conformity with the Central Pacific linguistic subgroup, and most probably reflecting known late historical associations within the area. 

Chained associations involving several areas also emerged, including the following:

E. Futuna — E. Uvea — Tonga — Samoa — Society Is. — Marquesas Is. 

The direction of influence is not indicated, but it will be noticed that in the centre of this distribution is Samoa which almost certainly ranks as the area of origin for the entire chain. In one direction the chain extends through Tonga as far as E. Futuna, where it probably reflects late Tongan occupation of Uvea,   and in the other Samoa becomes the probable homeland and fabled "Hawaiki" for all of Eastern Polynesia.

The above chain illustrates an important distinction between borrowing relationships and longer-term ones resulting from migrations, which are as significant for music as they are for language. The leap from Samoa to the Society Islands is self-evidently an example of migration, and the E. Uvea  connection with Tonga of borrowing. As might be expected, there is extensive evidence of long-term and protracted borrowing relationships between all islands and island groups that are adjacent to each other. Tonga and Samoa provide a prime example, with numerous song and dance forms known to have been borrowed each from the other (q.v. McLean 1999 Ch.28). 

McLean 1994 is a monograph entitled Diffusion of Musical Instruments and Their Relation to Language Migrations in New Guinea. On the basis of the earlier study, it was expected when work on the monograph began that most of the associations to be found would be of the borrowing kind. It was a surprise to discover that not all of the relationships could be explained in this way and there was extraordinarily close fit with language migrations worked out by linguists (reported by Wurm et al. 1975).

Musical instruments in 518 tribal areas of New Guinea, were plotted and compared, and six distributional areas of associated instruments were identified as follows:

Distribution A: Hourglass drums.

Distribution B: Jews harps, mouth bows, zithers, rattles, panpipes, tubular flutes, and wooden trumpets.

Distribution C: Bullroarers, ocarinas, bamboo trumpets, bamboo megaphones, and sacred or paired flutes.

Distribution D: Shell trumpets, leaf oboes, stamping tubes, and struck tubes.

Distribution E: Slit gongs.

Distribution F: Instruments of local distribution: Rubbing blocks, water drums, gourd trumpets, piston flutes, and struck and rubbed lime pots.

Distribution G: Rare instruments: Concussion sticks, nose flutes, and leaf whizzers.

Few of these have much to do with Polynesia. Distribution F is wholly unique to New Guinea. Distribution G has reached New Guinea from adjacent areas of Micronesia, where nose flutes take a different form from those of Polynesia. Distribution C is a coast-to-coast area centred on the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, and adjacent to Australia whence bullroarers would have come, as shown also by the presence in the area of Australian loan words (Wurm et al. 1975:921), and by recent discovery of genetic markers shared with Australia (Friedlaender et al. 2007:65).

The remaining music areas, however, extend beyond New Guinea, throwing light, as will be seen, on otherwise insoluble problems of distribution:

  •  Distribution A, consisting entirely of hourglass-shaped drums, is almost universal in New Guinea except for areas of absence most prominently in interior regions of southern Gulf province in Papua New Guinea and in southern West Papua. These drums are hand-held instruments used for dance accompaniment, and have no resemblance to Polynesian instruments, which take a different cylindrical form and are not carried. From New Guinea, however, they have diffused throughout Eastern Micronesia, where they provide material proof of linguistic subgrouping into Nuclear Micronesian, and perhaps offer some clue as to where the linguistic uniformities came from.
  •  Distribution B contains a full range of instruments for every purpose and is unquestionably Papuan rather than Austronesian in origin, with Austronesian speakers gaining it only late in the distributional sequence.
  • The full Distribution D complex of shell trumpets, leaf oboes, stamping tubes, and struck tubes has a coastal distribution in sporadic pockets on both northern and southern coasts of New Guinea. The component instruments, however, do not always belong together. Shell trumpets occur world-wide in coastal regions, and in Oceania have no areas of conspicuous absence except far from the sea in the interiors of the largest landmasses. The leaf oboe occurs not only in Papua New Guinea but extensively in Island Melanesia and throughout both Polynesia and central and western Micronesia. In the Indonesian-administered area of West Papua it is rare. In the same area, Marind is the sole reported example of struck tubes. Stamping tubes are not reported in West Papua at all, and they are absent as well in most of the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. By and large the instruments of Distribution D are characteristic less of New Guinea than of Island Melanesia and Western Polynesia. Struck tubes, for example, are instruments of Western but not Eastern Polynesia, and stamping tubes are reported in Eastern Polynesia only for the Society Islands and Hawai'i, where they may have been independently invented. When work on the present enquiry began, it was tempting to attribute the origins of the Polynesians to the Distribution D people, who at first sight appear to qualify on account of a proposed migration of Eastern Oceanic speakers into the south coast of Papua New Guinea around 4000 BP (Wurm et al. 1975:955, 956) -- now identifiable as a much later subgroup called Papuan Tip --, and the presence there of the Distribution D complex. But this prospect soon evaporated. The areas concerned all have music systems exhibiting core Melanesian traits, and stamping tubes are almost everywhere associated with polyphony, which is another Melanesian trait, absent in Eastern Polynesia except as a missionary introduction (McLean 1999:33ff) and evidently introduced into Western Polynesia only as a late borrowing from Melanesians. On balance, therefore, Distribution D has to be regarded as Melanesian.
  • Distribution E is made up exclusively of wooden slit gongs. Characteristically, the instruments are large and hollowed out in the shape of a canoe. They occupy a broad northern coastal belt extending from the Lapita homeland of the Bismarck Archipelago westwards to the Indonesian side of the Sepik border of Papua New Guinea through the Madang and Sepik regions, where the instruments are found predominantly among maritime and riverine speakers of Austronesian languages. In the opposite direction from the Bismarcks, distribution extends southwards through Island Melanesia to Western Polynesia and Fiji. In Micronesia, slit gongs are mostly absent and they are conspicuously absent as well in most of mainland New Guinea except for the north coast.  


Diffusion beyond New Guinea


Diffusion in Island Melanesia


An important finding from the New Guinea study concerns instruments typical of New Guinea which diffused in successive waves southwards into Island Melanesia following the path of slit gongs. Some, along with elements of music structure belonging to the core Melanesian complex, reached as far as Western Polynesia but are not present in Eastern Polynesia, showing that they were acquired by Western Polynesians from Melanesians subsequent to the departure of Eastern Polynesian settlers around 2000 BP, and accounting for most of the musical differences now distinguishing Western Polynesia. Distinct boundaries mark the limits of each successive wave of diffusion.

The Distribution D and E instruments have penetrated furthest with some Distribution B instruments hard on their heels. Of the latter, mouth bows and rattles have gone furthest unless independently invented in Eastern Polynesia. Panpipes managed to reach only as far as Samoa and Tonga where they are now long obsolete. Of the remaining Distribution B instruments, end-blown flutes and the typical New Guinea idioglot jews harp have reached only as far as New Caledonia and Rotuma. Non-meaningful song texts which are associated with both Distribution B instruments and borrowing in New Guinea remain associated in Island Melanesia. None of the Distribution C instruments (bullroarers, bamboo trumpets and ocarinas) has gone further than central Vanuatu (McLean 1994:98).

The hourglass drum (Distribution A) does not extend beyond Buka and Bougainville in northern Island Melanesia, where it is present with wooden trumpets (Distribution B). As already indicated, this typically New Guinea form of drum has also diffused throughout Eastern Micronesia where one would expect it to have been introduced from the Bismarck Archipelago.

Except for drums (Distribution A) and some elements of Distribution D (shell trumpets and leaf oboes), Micronesian instruments are essentially complementary to those of New Guinea. Bullroarers (Distribution C) have penetrated only the southern fringes of Micronesia, where they co-occur with leaf oboes (Distribution D) and leaf whizzers (Distribution F). 

Jews harps in Micronesia are in complementary distribution to drums, occurring in the west but not in the east. They are different in shape from the idioglot jews harps of New Guinea and it is questionable whether the two belong together. The most likely explanation for the Micronesian distribution is that Micronesian jews harps entered the area from the Philippines, independently of New Guinea jews harps.

The remaining Micronesian instruments are sticks and nose flutes, both of which are rare in New Guinea (Distribution F). It has already been suggested that these instruments entered New Guinea from Micronesia. Nose flutes co-occur in Micronesia with jews harps. Again it seems likely that they reached the area from the Philippines. Sticks are shared with Polynesia but are universal in Micronesia,   qualifying on this account as Micronesia's most characteristic instrument (McLean 1994:loc.cit.).


Vocal music areas

Of particular use for present purposes are contrasting packages of traits referred to above as Marginal Eastern Polynesian and Core Melanesian. A feature of Marginal Polynesia is vocal styles of small melodic range, with few notes (Engmelodik), in contrast with Core Melanesia which is characterised by music of large melodic range and a five-note scale without semitones (anhemitonic pentatonic). Also prevalent in Island Melanesia is singing in parts (polyphony), shared with Western Polynesia, but contrasting with lack of polyphony (unison) in Marginal Eastern Polynesia. Within Island Melanesia, Vanuatu stands alone in this respect with absence of polyphony there except in Malekula. It is possible that the lack of polyphony in Vanuatu results from a greater degree of Papuan admixture there than in other areas, which has also been suggested genetically (Hill et al. 1985:572-3), but would need to have taken place before the rise of polyphony among ancestral populations further north.

Fiji and New Caledonia possess polyphony but In this and other respects, as earlier indicated, they are closer to Polynesia than to other areas of Melanesia.

The Core Melanesian traits of wide range and anhemitonic pentatonic scales, are characteristic throughout the Bismarck Archipelago, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, but again are rare further south.

Additionally, in a sample of 104 tribal areas of mainland New Guinea, whether Austronesian or non-Austronesian speaking, where information on scales is available in McLean files, anhemitonic pentatonic scales and/or segments of them are present in 95.2  percent, together with a similar 93.9 percent in 33 further areas from the Bismarck Archipelago. Higher and lower order scales commonly co-occur, with tetratonic scales perhaps most prevalent, and fully pentatonic scales present in about half of all areas, with ranges extending to an octave or higher, bringing the Core Melanesian complex to the whole of New Guinea.

Three forms of Engmelodik can be distinguished, with separate areas of distribution. Those of Marginal Eastern Polynesia have 2-4 notes within the interval range of a perfect 4th, with or without semitones. A second type occurs in the Core Melanesian areas described above, in this case as subsets of the anhemitonic pentatonic scale (anhimitonic ditonic, tritonic and tetratonic). Again there are 2-4 notes but there are no semitones, and ranges can extend to an octave or more, qualifying as Engmelodik when they are within a fourth or fifth. Finally, among available music notations from New Caledonia, the Loyalty Islands, Fiji, and Rotuma, a handful of anhemitonic scales like those of the Bismarck Archipelago are found. Most scales in the area, however, are of 3 to 5 notes with semitones and a melodic range most commonly of a perfect 5th, identical, as a rule with the first few notes of the European major or minor scale which, to judge from notations published by Wilkes (1845(3)189-90, 245-6), were already exerting influence in Fiji by the early nineteenth century. This, on the other hand would need to have taken place remarkably quickly, and the explanation may rather be development of small range scales brought by Tongans in the period immediately preceding European contact. Thus it may be that the Anhemitonic scales are the oldest and representative of the first Lapita settlers with the others a nore recent overlay.    

In Micronesia there is convincing evidence of a Polynesian connection in work reported by the pioneer American ethnomusicologist, George Herzog (1901 - 1983) in a study of wax cylinder recordings made during a German South Sea Expedition of 1908–10.

Herzog transcribed into musical notation and analysed recordings from Palau, Yap, Satawal, Tobi, Pur, Sorol, Mogemog, Faraulip, Ifaluk, Elato, and Puluwat in the Central and Western Carolines, and from Truk in the Eastern Carolines (Herzog 1932, 1936). Two styles emerged from the analysis: a Central/Western style, and a contrasting Eastern one as follows:







Melody and scales

Limited tonal material including 2-note melodies, and recited or parlando styles

Built on extended tetrachords

Song-like legato

More tuneful

No wholly recited songs


Often follows text Dotted rhythms

Few durational values Often without strong metre

Frequent paired rhythms

Flowing regular rhythm Portamento slurs

Triple metres preferred


Change of tempo unusual



Repetition of short motifs


Binary forms usual, Codas



Parallel seconds and thirds

Little or no polyphony


Manner of performance

Uncertain intonation Gliding notes Transitional notes

Grace notes

Terminal glissando

Tendency to constant intonation

Shouted endings



Today, more than a hundred years after the recordings analysed by Herzog were made, most of the styles exemplified in them have long since yielded to the influence of western hymnody and popular music, and are now either modified or extinct. Enough work has been done, however, to confirm some of Herzog's observations, and to add one further area to his Central and Western Carolines style zone.

Thus, music of Ifaluk is described as having only a very small range of notes, often only two or three, together with a narrow range of a second or at most a third, and polyphony is mostly in parallel movement usually at the interval of a fourth, but with parallel seconds still in evidence in some genres (Smith 1980, Burrows 1958).    

Similarly, in Ponape songs in traditional style have a limited number of notes, often only two or three, and are characterized by conjunct melodic movement.

Part singing is usualy in two parts with polyphonic intervals approximating to the seconds and thirds familiar from European music (Kennedy 1980).   

The salient traits here are few notes and small range (Engmelodik) on the one hand and parallel polyphony with intervals of a second on the other, both critical to an understanding of where such traits may have originated.

Obvious to anyone familiar with Oceanic music, as to Herzog himself, is a clear-cut affinity with Polynesia for the Central/Western Micronesian style, and more in common with Melanesia for the Eastern one. The Central/Western area could readily have received influence from the geographically adjacent Bismarck Archipelago, and the Eastern Micronesian area either from the Bismarcks or from further afield within Island Melanesia.

In almost every respect except one, the traits noted for the Central/Western Carolines are either found in Marginal Eastern Polynesia, or are present in both Marginal and Western Polynesia. But the entries in the above table for polyphony seem at first to be the wrong way round. Polyphony, as already noted, is prevalent throughout Island Melanesia except in most of Vanuatu, and drone-based polyphony is one of the core features of Western Polynesia, where, like other traits not present in Marginal Polynesia, it is assumed to have been gained from Melanesians after the departure of East Polynesians. Parallel seconds have no association with Polynesia, and most frequently occur as a result of simultaneous performance of adjacent degrees of the anhemitonic pentatonic scale which again is Melanesian and appears in Western Polynesia only as a likely result of borrowing from Melanesia.

A possible explanation for polyphony, if not parallel seconds, in Herzog's samples might seem to be influence either from Tuvalu or from one or both of the Polynesian Outliers, Kapingamarangi and Nukuoro. The latter two cannot be directly ruled out because not enough is known of their music, but polyphony reached the Carolines as a package which included parallel seconds. Tuvalu does not have the latter, and if the Outliers had them they would be unique in Polynesia. On this account, therefore, this form of polyphony could not have reached the Carolines from any of these places, and alternatives must be sought from elsewhere.

In the Solomon Islands there are elaborate polyphonic panpipe ensembles as well as multi-part vocal music. Polyphony could have diffused to other areas from there: southwards into Western Polynesia; westwards into the south coast of Papua New Guinea; and northwards into western and central Micronesia, as a late development from the Admiralty Islands, where two-part dissonant polyphony is famously present (Messner 1981), and intermittent drones are not unknown. Nor is this form of polyphony limited to the Admiralties. At the opposite end of the Melanesian island chain, a common  form of Fijian meke has a harmonic structure of note clusters consisting of major or minor seconds doubled at the fifth and octave (Saumaiwai 1980: 84); and in the Solomons sporadic parallel seconds appear in transcriptions of polyphonic music from Santa Cruz (e.g. Haase 1977:293, 296, 299).

In Micronesia, the  entire package of traits would have been spread and maintained as a result of the well known sawei tribute system of the Yap empire and similar systems of exchange that continued to operate until modern times.

Finally, lack of polyphony in the eastern Carolines could be a remnant of pre-Polynesian practice before the introduction of polyphony from the Admiralties. In every respect, therefore, Herzog's results are consistent with an early group of Oceanic speakers who spent some time in Micronesia before venturing further into Remote Oceania, with Marginal Polynesian traits including Engmelodik first to arrive into the Carolines, and polyphony later after the departure of Polynesian ancestors. 


Reconstruction of music terms

A ground-breaking effort on the part of Pacific linguists over the past few decades has been the reconstruction of lexical items in languages ancestral to present-day Polynesians. Best known among them is the Pollex or Proto Polynesian Lexicon pioneered by the late Professor Bruce Biggs at the University of Auckland (Biggs & Clark 1996-98), and another, already alluded to briefly in the last chapter, is an Oceanic Lexicon project, dedicated to the reconstruction of Proto Oceanic (POc) and initiated by Professors Malcolm Ross and Andrew Pawley at the Australian National University (Ross et al. 1998 and subsequent volumes), providing opportunity for the comparison of reconstructions to Proto Polynesian (PPn) with those from its predecessor Proto Oceanic (POc). Some resulting subgroups are set out in the accompanying figure, and cognate sets from the two projects are incorporated into 35 tables of musical terms abstracted in following pages, and published in full in 2010 (McLean 2010). For present purposes, the table information from this publication is compressed under uniform area codes with remaining information mostly omitted. Standard three-letter Pollex codes have been used for Polynesia (for a list see Appendix 2), and the following similar codes have been adopted for Melanesia and Micronesia: NGM (New Guinea mainland inclusive of the Lexicon categories NNG and PT), BIS (Bismarck Archipelago inclusive of Lexicon categories Adm and most of MM), SOL (Solomon Islands), VAN (Vanuatu), NCal (New Caledonia and Loyalty Islands), FIJ (Fiji), and MIC (Micronesia), with the number of languages in each added in brackets. Complete information including language names, vernacular names, glosses, and references can be obtained free on line in Mclean 2010 from

Even to the layman, it is apparent that the further one moves back in time through a tree of linguistic subgroups the less chance there is of finding terms that are still in use. No one expects to find many terms surviving from Proto Austronesian (PAn) to Proto Malayo Polynesian (PMP) or from Proto Malayo Polynesian to Proto Oceanic (POc). Nearer to the present in the tree, however, the odds increase, and it is at these levels that distributional evidence will be found, if any exists, of relationships of music and dance terms among the languages spoken by Lapita potters and/or the Polynesian ancestors who gave rise to the subgroup of Proto Polynesian (PPn). It is apparent also that to determine the status of a particular term, it is necessary to find out at what level in the tree the term was coined or borrowed as the case may be. In the published tables, therefore, strict distributional criteria were applied, with the object of pinpointing the exact areas within which the various terms are found. POc should be less important in this respect than the next subgroup, Proto Eastern Oceanic (PEOc), where one can expect a reasonable spread of daughter languages through Island Melanesia, some terms from which could potentially end up also in PPn. Consistent with the doubtful status of the Eastern Oceanic  subgroup, however, this expectation has mostly not been met, and comparisons between POc and PPn must therefore suffice. It is important also to distinguish between genuine POc terms in the area of POc origin before differentiation into PEOc, and terms which belong rather to the more recent subgroup of Proto Western Oceanic (PWOc), which developed in the area after the departure of Lapita potters. Attention is drawn to such distinctions in the notes to the tables.



Linguistic subgroups referred to in the text


I have assumed that if a reconstruction is made from only a few terms it may or may not represent the term as actually spoken in the proto language, but only as it might have been spoken if the term were actually present. Such terms have accordingly been excluded as a basis for analysis.

Among the benefits of this approach is identification of the probable area of origin of Lapita potters who are believed to have been ancestral to Polynesians, as well as inventories of music and dance terms they may or may not have introduced.

The tables from which the following is abstracted compare items from published POc and PPn cognate sets (Pollex and Lexicon) with entries from McLean area files (McLean MS. n.d.), together with entries from published dictionaries of Oceanic languages. Of these, only the former have been formally tested for linguistic cognacy, so to distinguish any that are not corroborated from Pollex or Lexicon, these are marked (McL) as subject to further scrutiny in case some are borrowings or unacceptable for other reasons. It can be assumed, however, that most are indicative of a connection of some kind.  

The tables are arranged in alphabetical order of commonly occurring musical instruments (conch, drum, flute, jews harp, and slit gong), followed by tables relating to dance and song.

Map codes in comments on the tables and elsewhere in the book refer to New Guinea maps published with McLean 1994. Most of those relating to the tables are in the Bismarck Archipelago (see accompanying map portion).  

For background on musical instruments of Oceania see McLean entries in Sadie 1984 where there is extensive information including references. Further information about the spread of music and dance in Polynesia can be found in Chapter 28 of the writer's book Weavers of Song (McLean 1999).


Cognate sets


Bismarck Archipelago  showing language map codes


Conch (Tables 1-3)


PMP *tambuRi(q) 'conch shell trumpet' and

POc *tapuRi(q) 'triton shell: Charonia tritonis, used as trumpet' (Lexicon)

NGM (3), NGM (9 (McL)), BIS (3), BIS (12 (McL)), SOL (2), SOL (5 (McL)), VAN (2), VAN (4 (McL)), FIJ (2), FIJ (1 (McL)), MIC (2), MIC (3 (McL))

The conch trumpet is of very early distribution, possibly preceding all others. In McLean 1994 and McLean 2008 it is referred to as part of Distribution D and is found there to be associated with leaf oboes, together with stamping tubes and struck tubes in areas where bamboo is grown. Placing available map codes for New Guinea into sequence yields the following from west to east: West Papua 055; North coast PNG 152, 153, 167, 265, 266, 267; South coast PNG 367; Papuan tip 378; Massim 382, 386; New Britain North coast 396, 399, 401, 417, 419, 421; New Ireland 428; Admiralty Is 452. The core area is the New Britain north coast Lapita homeland, with excursions northwards into Micronesia, and southward through the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu as far as Fiji, except for New Caledonia, where the name for the conch is different. There can be little doubt that a term similar to this would have been the one used by Lapita potters. It is highly significant, however, that the Polynesian name for shell trumpet (see next table) differs from the POc one which appears everywhere else. Why, then, did Polynesians not retain the earlier term? This question will be taken up later.


PNPn   Pu(‘)u :Trumpet (Pollex)


The word pu or puu is generally accepted to be an onomatopoeic imitation of the sound made by a trumpet and, except for a scattering of similar and related terms, is overwhelmingly Polynesian (except for absence most notably in Tonga, where the term is different), qualifying puu on this account as at least PNPn. Co-occurrence in most areas, with the obviously related term puhi or pusi 'to blow' (see next table) confirms the term as almost exclusively Polynesian. Elsewhere it is probably either a borrowing from Polynesia or results from an independent use of onomatopoeia.  


PMP *pusi :To blow air from the mouth (Pollex)          

BIS (2 (McL)), SOL (2 (McL)), VAN (1 (McL)), FIJ (1), MIC (2 (McL)), ANU (McL), EAS, EFU, EUV, HAW, KAP, MAE, MAO, MFA, MQA, MVA, NIU, NKR, PUK, RAR, REN, TAH, TIK, TOK, TON, TUA, WFU (McL)

A comparison of Tables 2 and 3 shows that the term pusi 'to blow' co-occurs throughout most of Polynesia with the term pu for 'shell trumpet'. The few appearances of the word elsewhere, though including some within Polynesia itself, mostly lack this association and carry the different though related meaning 'to spurt, explode, or burst out', suggesting that this was its original or general meaning. Presence of the meaning 'to squirt' in far-away Saipan and of the meaning 'to blow' in both New Britain and in Truk in Micronesia, where the term is truncated to pu, suggests presence in POc, with the Caroline Islands as a possible vector for introduction into Polynesia.   


Drum (Tables 4-5)


POc *kude 'hourglass drum'

BIS (7), all from Lexicon vol.1

Kudu/kunndu in this table is the Pidgin English term for the New Guinea hourglass drum. Besides the Bismarck references provided above, scores more, including examples from the New Guinea mainland, could probably be added from McLean files, but there would be no point in doing so. The instrument is almost universal in Papua New Guinea and the pidgin English name for it is similarly ubiquitous. There is no reason to suppose, however, that this term or one resembling it was in general use in proto times. At best it would have been just one of a multitude of local names for the instrument, adopted most likely from one of the languages used by traders and missionaries as a lingua franca at the time of first European contact, and disseminated only from this time onwards. The seven Lexicon terms in the table are in adjacent areas within the PWOc language area as follows: 394, 395, 398, 400, 401, 419, 429.


PNPn *pasu :Drum n; PNPn *pasu :To pound, thump v. (Pollex)

PCP *(v,b)asu 'a drum; to drum, thump' (Lexicon)

FIJ (1), MIC (2 (McL)), EAS (McL), EUV (McL), HAW, MAN (McL), MAO, MQA, MVA, NIU, PEN, RAR, TAH, TOK (McL), TON, TUA,

For both PNPn and PCP, 'thump' can be accepted as a gloss but not 'drum'. The pahu is a drum in Eastern Polynesia, where the term plainly derives from 'thump', because this is the kind of sound these drums produce. Western Polynesia, however, does not have the drum as an instrument, except as a late European borrowing. It follows that if the term was present in proto times it meant simply 'thump' and not 'drum'. This raises an important point of principle. There are numerous examples throughout Oceania of terms from general vocabulary applied either metaphorically or otherwise to an aspect of music, usually – unlike pahu – with little or no indication of when the new use may have arisen. It is obviously inadmissible to assign such terms to an earlier period than the one in which they originated. The reconstruction method clearly works only if there are a number of instances in daughter languages with no possibility of borrowing among them, and disregard of this principle may lead to error.

Except for the New Guinea kundu (see Table 4), drums are absent in Melanesia. Cognates of the pahu term do, however, occur in Mokil and Ponape (Pohnpei) in Micronesia, albeit applied to drums of PNG hourglass design, different from the cylindrical drums characteristic of Eastern Polynesia. A relationship of some kind must exist, and will be taken up in discussion later in the book.


Flute (Tables 6-12)


POc *kopi 'bamboo; bamboo flute' (Lexicon)

PPn *kofe :bamboo sp (Pollex)

NGM (1), AIT (1 (McL)), EUV (McL), HAW (McL), MIA (McL), NIU, RAR (McL), REN (McL), SAM (McL), TIK (McL), TOK (McL), TUA (McL)

See also Pollex for numerous further entries grouped under Kofe.A bamboo sp. and Kofe.B bamboo knife. Only those relating to musical instruments are included in the present table.

Apart from a single New Guinea entry in Lexicon vol.1 there is no evidence here for a reconstruction to POc, much less either the term as reconstructed or its gloss as 'flute' at the proto level. If the New Guinea entry is ignored the Pollex reconstruction of the remaining entries to PPn kofe and limitation of meaning to bamboo is seen to be entirely realistic. The application of the term to 'flute' or 'nose flute' in Polynesia is another example of a general term extended to a specific use. Other objects made from bamboo such as stamping tubes in some areas and the small slit gong of Mangaia, which would have been made from bamboo in the first instance, are examples of the same process at work.


PAn *qauR 'bamboo sp'

POc *kauR 'bamboo; bamboo wind instrument' (Lexicon)

NGM (2), BIS (1), BIS (7 (McL)), SOL (3), SOL (5 (McL)), VAN (3)

On the above evidence, this term for bamboo is prevalent only in the Bismarck Archipelago, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu. In Fijian the term is bitu, which appears to be related to neither POc nor PPn. If kaur is POc, then, as in the case of shell trumpets, here is yet another prevalent item for which the term is completely different in POc and PPn. It is doubtful whether the term can be glossed as 'musical instrument' in POc as well as 'bamboo'. Again 'bamboo' is the general meaning but the extension of meaning to objects made of bamboo is not universal and is not limited to musical instruments. The best known application of the word to musical instruments is by the 'Are'are of Malaita in the Solomon Islands whose bamboo panpipe ensembles are extensively reported by Hugo Zemp (See McLean entry on Panpipes in Sadie 1984 for a summary).


POc *upi/*ipu 'blow; native flute' (Lexicon)

PPn *ifi 'Blow' (Pollex)

NGM (2), NGM (2 (McL)), BIS (2 (McL)), SOL (4), SOL (13 (McL)), VAN (1 (McL)), NCal (2 (McL)), FIJ (2 (McL)), MIC (1 (McL)), EFU, EUV, KAP (McL), MAO, NIU, SAM, TON, WFU

This is another example of specific use of a general term, in this case the term 'to blow' transferring to blown musical instruments, including flutes, trumpets, and panpipes, in a number of areas, but not flutes in general as suggested in the Lexicon gloss, though this is plausible in terms of contrast with pusi (Table 3), if this was the term for to blow as a trumpet. The distribution seems convincingly POc, but the preponderance of terms in the Solomons suggests an origin there, with diffusion into Western Polynesia south to Fiji and New Caledonia through the Outliers rather than via Vanuatu. If, as seems likely, Maori ihi 'Blow, of wind' is unrelated, the term cannot be PPn. 


*?? *fag(o,u) :blow nose, snort (Pollex)


In its primary sense of 'blow with the nose', albeit diluted to 'nasal sound' by the time it reached New Zealand, this term is PPn, and provenience much further back to POc or even PAn is conferred by the associated term fafagu in Table 10 (next). In reduplicated form as fangofango or fangufangu it becomes a nose flute. The distribution is markedly similar to that of the complementary term pusi 'to blow from the mouth' in Table 3, with the two terms appearing together in no fewer than 14 places, stretching from Western Micronesia through the Polynesian Outliers, deep into the remainder of Western Polynesia.

The Rotuma entry has been identified as a borrowing by Andrew Pawley as follows:

ROT fag-fagu 'nose flute' must be a borrowing from Polynesian. The directly inherited Rotuman form would be hag-hagu, with h. Compare Rotuman hagu 'waken' in Table 10, which is a regular reflex (AP).


PAn *bangun (Dpf)

POc *pang(ou)(n) (Gce.)

PPn *fafago “awaken someone” (Pollex)


Except for occurrence in Saipan, Truk, and Woleai in Micronesia, this distribution is exclusively Western Polynesian. The table, however, is probably far from complete, and should be considered in association with the primary term fango in the previous table which has a broader distribution. When the two tables are merged it is found that the fango terms for nose flute and the fafango one for 'to awaken' occur together in numerous places, just as also happens with pu 'conch' and pusi 'to blow with the mouth', in the fangu case with duplication of the first syllable of the base word conferring the separate meaning. The connection between the two becomes explicit in Tonga, where the nose flute (fangufangu) is used traditionally to gently awaken royalty and nobility (Moyle 1987:83). It may be that fangu 'to blow with the nose' is the original general term, with fafangu 'to awaken' and fangufangu 'nose flute' deriving from it. On the other hand, this status may belong also with the 'awaken' term which, if Dempwolff's reconstruction of PAn *bangun 'arouse' is correct (Dempwolff 1971:(3)20), suggests association with nose flute terms reported for Puluwat and Truk in the Caroline Islands as follows:

Puluwat yangin 'nose flute'

Puluwat yangin 'nose flute' (Elbert 1972:332)

Truk aangyn, angin, anin, angun 'nose flute'

Truk aangun 'nose flute' (Goodenough & Sugita 1990:255)


PAn *tulani 'bamboo flute' (Blust 1995:496)

PMP *tulali 'nose flute' (Blust 1995:496)

These reconstructions are of particular importance because of their implications for Lapita, and for this reason the following information relevant to them, which features entries that are in neither Pollex nor Lexicon, is cited here in full.

Papua New Guinea Western Province

Gogodala Map code 314 tutuli conch shell trumpet

Papua New Guinea Milne Bay province

Dobu Map code 384 yoguli conch shell

Bismarck Archipelago

Duke of York Is Map code 421 talal 'music' (Lanyon-Orgill 1960:576) 

Londip, New Britain, Map code 417 dulall long flute

Matupit, New Britain, map code 420 dulall motched mouth flute

Mengen Map code 412 tulala 'notched mouth flute', 'raft panpipe', and also 'the Maenge name for all bamboo' (Laade 1999:152-4)

Mioko, Duke of York Is, Map code 421 ntulall long flute

Pala, New Ireland, Map code 431 tulal bamboo mouth flute

Raluana Map code 419 tulal 'music, musical pipe, to make music' (Lanyon-Orgill 1960:424)

Siar, New Ireland, Map code 425 tulall long flute

Siar, New Ireland, Map code 425 tull triton horn

Unidentified. Between Muliama (map code 427) and King/Lamasa (422) tullal bamboo mouth flute

Solomon Islands

Ysabel duduli 'a bass drum of bamboo; to drum'; duulali 'to sound, resound, a sound' (Ivens 1940:9)


dulali 'the Fijian nose-flute' (Capell 1983:63)


Marshall Islands jilel 'conch, conch trumpet' (Abo et al. 1976:329)

Reconstruction of the tulali term to PAn and PMP, coupled with subsequent appearance in the Bismarck Archipelago, together with extensions north to Micronesia and south to the Solomons and Fiji, is evidence also of inheritance in POc.

Putting map codes from the table into consecutive order yields the following: 314, 384, 412, 417, 419, 420, 421, 422, 425, 427, 431. Most of these are concentrated along the north coast of New Britain, inclusive of known Lapita sites. This is a highly local distribution, suggesting on the one hand that it may be relatively recent, but on the other, because of the proximity of so many Lapita sites and a probable origin in POc, that the prevalence of the term here may be a survival from Lapita times.

Questions must be raised, however, about Blust's gloss of 'nose flute' for his reconstructions to PMP and PAn.

In 1995 Blust provided a reconstruction of PAN *tulani, PMP *tulali "flute" (F, P, WIN, OC) which he said "almost certainly referred to a bamboo nose flute, as it still does in several descendant communities" (Blust 1995:496), and a decade and a half later he more positively glossed the term to 'bamboo nose flute', "based on Fijian /dulali/ and cognates in Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia." (Blust 2000:187) In neither paper, however, did he offer evidence in support of the claim. The present writer has no information for Taiwan but the following cognates have been found from elsewhere, with mouth and nose-blowing about equally represented, suggesting that 'flute' rather than 'nose flute' would be a more appropriate gloss for the PMP and PAn terms:

Central Asia tulak 'duct flute' (Sadie 1984:(3)674)

Dusun, Borneo turali 'nose flute' (Marcuse 1964:551)

Sabah, Malaysia turali 'transverse nose flute' (Sadie 1984:(3)681)

Celebes [Sualawesi], Indonesia tulali, tujali 'exterior duct ring flute' (Marcuse 1964:549)

Kalinga, northern Philippines tongali 'nose flute' (Sadie 1984:(3)606)

Ilonggot, Philippines, tulani or tulale 'external duct fipple mouth flute' (Roger Blench (pers.comm.) 

Sulod, Panay Island, Philippines, tulali 'external duct fipple mouth flute' (Roger Blench (pers.comm.)

Also probably related is Javanese tulup 'to shoot with a blow-pipe' (Dempwolff 1971:(3)168)

Next to be considered is the question of the Fijian dulali, which Blust took into account in his gloss of 'nose flute' for the tulali.

A recent paper by Ammann (2007) has disproved the existence of nose flutes in New Caledonia and, with the exception of Fiji, has thrown doubt on their presence anywhere else in Island Melanesia except possibly Manus. The term dulali and its cognates is applied to nose flute only in Fiji and is a mouth flute in its presumed area of origin in New Britain, with no credible presence, following Ammann, of nose flutes anywhere along the migration path from the Bismarcks to Fiji. This requires explanation and will be referred to again later.

Finally, it will be noticed that the tulali term is not exclusive to flutes. Among the Dobu and in the Marshall Islands it is applied to the conch, and the same is true of one of the New Britain areas where the term is used for both flute and conch.


CEPn *wiwo :Flute (Pollex)


As indicated in the Pollex reconstruction, this term for flute is exclusive to Eastern Polynesia. Andrew Pawley notes as problematic the inclusion of Maori whio 'whistle' and Easter Islands hio 'bamboo flute': "These two forms would have to come from PEPn *fio, not *wiwo" (AP).


Tables 13-14 Jews harp


No published Lexicon or Pollex reconstructions are available for this table, so the McLean entries are again cited in full. On distributional grounds it is suggested that the terms found may be reconstructable to PWOc.


Bismarck Archipelago

Gazelle Pen. Map code 415 gap, nap jews harp

Gazelle Pen. Map code 415 ngap jews harp

King Map code 422 ngab jews harp

Kuanua Map code 419 aqapa jews harp

Kuanua Map code 419 gap 'jews harp' (Mannering n.d.:49)

Lamassa Map code 423 ngab jews harp

Londip Map code 417 ngab, ngap jews harp

Namatanai, Pala Map code 431 ngap jews harp

New Britain mangap jews harp

New Britain ngap jews harp

New Ireland ngab jews harp

Raluana Map code 419 gap, guap 'jews harp' (Lanyon-Orgill 1960:565)


Polynesian Outliers

REN hapa metal jews harp believed to be from the Solomon Islands. (Elbert 1975:(2)48)

Placing known area codes in order yields the following: 415, 417, 419, 421, 422, 423, 431. These are all consecutive, indicative of a highly local distribution in the same general area as dulali flute cognates in Table 11, with five of the specific languages coinciding. Merging the two together yields a string with hardly any gaps and nothing else on either side of it: 314, 384, 412, 415, 417, 419, 420, 421 422, 423, 425, 427, 431, stretching from the Gazelle Peninsula in New Britain north eastwards in a string of coastal locations around the easternmost tip of New Ireland. The overlap between the two tables is not absolute, however, as the jews harp terms are limited to the Bismarcks portion of the distribution, consistent with attribution of Table 11 to POc, with forerunners even as far back as Taiwan, and attribution of the jews harp terms to the post-Lapita subgroup now known as Proto Western Oceanic (PWOc). Search of the McLean files has revealed only a handful of cognates outside of the Bismarcks, suggesting that the Table 13 terms may indeed belong to PWOc. There are plenty of jews harps south of this area, all the way to Fiji, but they have different names with no noticeable uniformities. Note, however, the Rennell borrowing of hapa from the Solomon Islands which, if the term is cognate with gap, suggests that the latter is a transliteration of the English word 'harp'.


This table is very short so has again been cited in full.

PPn *Tete :Shiver, tremble

See Pollex for numerous entries with this general meaning to which the jews harp and mouth bow term seems to be related.

Information from McLean files

EFU utete coconut leaflet midrib jews harp

EUV utete coconut leaf jews harp

HAW ukeke mouth bow (23 refs)

MQA utete mouth bow (6 refs)

SAM utete coconut leaflet midrib jews harp (4 refs)

TOK utete jews harp

TON utete coconut leaf jews harp (5 refs)

With two different applications in Eastern and Western Polynesia respectively this term does not qualify for reconstruction to PPn as a musical instrument. It would seem that the primary term for 'to shiver' was applied independently to the jews harp in Western Polynesia and to the musical bow, which operates on a similar principle, in Hawai'i and the Marquesas Islands. The table 13 and 14 sets for jews harp are nevertheless another clear case of an instrument the terms for which are complementary within POc and PPn respectively. 


Slit gong Tables 15-19


POc *garamut 'slit gong' (Lexicon)

The table entries are exclusively from Lexicon, but are again short and cited in full with map codes added where relevant.

Northern New Guinea and Bismarck Archipelago

Adm Emira galamutu 'slit gong' Map code 452

MM Nakanai galamo 'slit gong' Map code 401

MM Tolai garamut 'native log drum' Map code 419

NNG Bing giram 'garamut, log drum' Map code 398

NNG Kairiru giram 'slit gong'

NNG Kove yilamo 'slit gong'

NNG Manam giramo 'slit gong' Map code 152


Solomon Islands

MM Halia (Haku) garamuc 'slit gong'

MM Tinputz kamus 'drum/slit drum'

Garamut is the Pidgin English term for slit gong in New Guinea and adjacent areas. Like the Pidgin term kundu for hourglass drum (Table 4), its origin is unknown but all or most of the examples of it are self-evidently post-European. Again, like kundu, the term may have been adopted from one of the areas where European contact was first made, but there is little point in trying to find out where this might have been. Marcuse (1964:200) lists 13 variants of the name ('angremut, dangamut, galamutu, garamudu, geramo, gerom, karamut, kolamut, naramut, ngaramut, ngilamo, qaramut, terremut'), any one or none of which could have been the originator of the Pidgin term, and there are more in McLean files, mostly in the Bismarck Archipelago, suggesting that this diversity may have taken place at PWOc level. If there was a proto term, however, it is unlikely to have taken the same form as the word in Pidgin English.


POc *dali 'slit gong' (Blust 1995:496)

POc *rali 'slit gong' (Blust 2000:187)

PCP *lali 'slit gong' (Lexicon)

In this table the Admiralty region of the Bismarck Archipelago is of special significance and is therefore detached from the rest of the Bismarcks, with Admiralty terms from Blust (2000) added to those from elsewhere.

Adm (6), Adm (4 (McL)), FIJ (2), FIJ (3 (McL)), ECE, EFU, EUV, MAE, MFA (McL), REN, SAM, TON

There is an apparent connection here between the Admiralty Islands and Fiji, albeit with no evidence of the term in the rest of Melanesia, and appearances elsewhere limited to Western Polynesia. Presence of the lali in areas adjacent to Fiji does not imply PCP status for these areas as all are known to have borrowed both the instrument and the name for it from Fiji. As will be explained in a later chapter this type of slit gong would have been adopted from the use of paired lali as time-keepers for scullers in Fijian trading canoes, resulting in the addition of the lali to existing types of slit gong in the areas where trading took place. Andrew Pawley comments:

The McLean entries include forms that appear to belong to at least two different cognate sets: the lali, dral, dran set and the drami set. The latter sets seems to be confined to the Manus region (AP).


PPn *nafa :A wooden drum (Pollex)

PPn *nafa 'a wooden drum' (Lexicon)


The nafa is the Tongan form of slit gong, and is commonly recognised as indigenous to Tonga. As a slit gong or sounding board the term is limited to Western Polynesia so cannot be PPn, and must have meant something different at the PPn level. It would seem probable that as a general term the meaning was the same as the one still existing in Tahiti, the Marquesas Islands, and Mangareva, where it meant hollow or a hollow receptacle for liquids, and was applied to the slit gong in Tonga only after the departure of Eastern Polynesian colonists from the west.


CEPn *tookere :Percussion instrument of wood (Pollex)


As indicated in the Pollex reconstruction, this term is limited to Eastern Polynesia. The one apparent exception is Pukapuka which shares both Western and Eastern Polynesian traits and probably gained the term only recently. The general meaning was probably 'to tap'. In Tahiti it was historically applied to a specific size of skin drum and in New Zealand to castanets. Elsewhere it is mostly a term for a small slit gong.


PNPn *paatee :Wooden gong (Pollex)


Reconstruction to PNP is wrong, based as it must be on the presence of the instrument in Western Polynesia, where it is, in fact, a borrowing from Rarotonga at the hands of LMS missionaries who took the pate first to Samoa for use as a church bell and then elsewhere within Western Polynesia. They also introduced Cook Islands style hymn singing into Papua New Guinea, where these hymns are known as 'prophet songs' and are still sung.

Dance Tables 20-25


PNPn *kapa :Dance (Pollex)


The term is predominantly Eastern Polynesian, with appearances in Western Polynesia only in Rennell and Niue. In Niue the term is kapakapa and means 'to flutter'. Elsewhere, as kapa, it is either a dance or dance related except in Mangareva, the Marquesas Islands, and Pukapuka, where it is a chant. In New Zealand it means to stand in a row, and in Rarotonga refers to dancers seated in a row.   


PMP *dangkah 'stride, hop' (Dempwolff 1938)

PNPn *saka :Dance (Pollex)

In view of multiple word forms and meanings of the term, the table entries are cited in full. Unless otherwise stated they are from Pollex.

ECE haka 'Actions of dance'

EFU saka 'Dance with hand and foot action'

EUV haka 'Dance'

EUV haka gestures or movements of a dancer (McL)

FIJ caka 'Work, do'

HAW ha'a 'a dance with bent knees; dancing. Called hula after mid 1800s (PPN saka)' (Pukui & Elbert 1986:44)

KAP haka 'Stride along vigorously'

MAO haka 'dance' (Williams 1975:31)

MAO haka dance type (64 refs (McL))

MQA haka 'Danse, danser'

MQA haka sexual dance (McL)

MVA 'aka 'To dance in traditional fashion; dance accompanied by chant, usually of a warlike nature'

NIU haka o me 'the man standing on the left of the leader in the traditional dance called me fa'' (McEwen 1970:69)

NKM haka mourning songs (McL)

NKO saga 'Glide in air'

OJA sa'a mourning song (McL)

OJA sa'a 'Song sung when someone is dying'

PEN saka dance type (McL)

PEN saka 'Kind of dance'

PUK yaka 'A style of dancing'

PUK yaka old form of dancing accompanied by singing and drumming (McL)  

RAR aka 'ancient form of tribal dance' (Savage 1962:13)

RAR 'aka tribal dance (McL)  

RAR 'Aka 'Dance'

REN 'saka 'Song without instruments or clapping'

REN saka tattooing songs (McL)

ROT saka 'To display vigour'

SAM sa'a 'Dance'

SAM sa'asa'a to dance (McL)

SIK saka disparaging/praise song (McL)

TIK saka 'perform rites in trad. religious system; invoke (spirits of dead ancestors)'  (Firth 1985:417)

TOK haka 'Dance'

TOK haka dance (McL)

TON haka 'Hand action while singing'

TUA haka 'Dance'

TUA haka mixed standing dance (McL)

In view of only marginally related meanings in Tonga and Niue, the Pollex reconstruction to PNPn 'dance' seems reasonable. Dempwolff's PMP reconstruction (Dempwolff 1971: (3)47) is on the basis of Malay and Javanese with no terms elsewhere except Western Polynesia. It is glossed as 'stride, hop or skip', which could have given rise to dance terms, but a migration path for it is not clear, despite the presence of the very same meaning of 'stride' in Kapingamarangi, which takes the term to Micronesia. But it does not appear to be present anywhere in Melanesia, except in Fiji, where it is not associated with dance. Also to be noted is that hopping and striding are not characteristic of any Polynesian dances except in Easter Island where there was a so-called 'hopping dance', called upaupa (McLean 1999:283), a term which could be a variant of hula and in this case applied to a dance of possible phallic display. If the PMP connection to haka is accepted, it would seem there are distributional gaps to be filled before the term can be admitted to POc, and its meaning must have undergone radical change during its transit through Polynesia.

Andrew Pawley comments:

Table 21 *saka. If I understand you correctly you consider the genuine cognates to be confined to Polynesian, possibly to Nuclear Polynesian. I agree. Rotuman saka is clearly marked as a loan from Polynesian. A genuine cognate would have the form sa'a. Fijian caka and the reconstruction proposed by Dempwolff can be discounted (AP).


PNPn *(f, s)ula :Dance (Pollex)

Because of questions raised over this reconstruction, table entries are again cited in full.

MIC Kiribati, ura = hula borrowed from Hawai'i (McL)

EAS hura modern Tahitian dance (McL)

HAW hula dance (37 refs (McL))

HAW hula 'Dance, throb, twitch'

MAO hura 'Twitch'

MFA fura 'Run'

NIU hula 'to dance about, jump about' (McEwen 1970:97)

OJA hula 'Dance'

PEN hura 'Dance'

RAR 'the act of dancing; to dance, to move with measured steps to music or to the accompaniment of the drum and wooden gongs' (Savage 1962:437)

RAR 'ura Act of dancing (McL)

SAM ula dance; poula 'night dance', aoula 'day dance' (McL)

SIK hula modern couple dance in European style (McL)

TAH hura dance (7 refs (McL))

TAH hura 'Dance'

TAK hula '1. n. a women's dance with guitar or ukulele accompaniment reputedly introduced from Nukumanu in the 1950s; 2. vi Dance in this style' (RMTD) 

TON hula Hawaiian dancing (McL)

TON hula modern dance accompanied by European instruments; women's dance, modern, introduced from Hawai'i (McL)

TON ula women's dance (8 refs (McL))

Great care needs to be taken with this term to avoid false attributions as a result of modern borrowing from Hawai'i, where this dance genre is indigenous. Presence as a traditional dance genre in Tonga and Samoa would seem sufficient, along with presence also in Niuean, to qualify the term as PPn, but appearances in this case are deceptive. Pawley provides the following corrective which includes justification for reconstruction to PNPn:

Table 22. You cite the PNPn reconstruction *(f,s)ula 'dance' from POLLEX. I'd say the form should be *fula, because *f is unambiguously reflected in Mele-Fila, Takuu and Ontong Java. The sole problem lies in Niuean hula but as Niuean is known to have borrowed from EPn I would discount the Niuean comparison.


PPn *siwa :Dance and sing (Pollex)


Presence of numerous cognates for hiva in both Western and Eastern Polynesia, and testimony from the earliest European observers from Cook's voyages onwards, confirms this term as PPn. In view of multiple seeming terms for dance in PPn, however, it seems likely that the original meaning of this particular term is the one still preserved in Eastern Polynesia, namely 'entertainment' which generally includes dance. At a later time, especially in Western Polynesia, it would have lost its general meaning after application to specific forms of dance. In New Caledonia it is probably a borrowing from a Polynesian neighbour.


Pn *mako :Dance (Pollex)


Except for an appearance in Tanna, which is probably a borrowing, this dance term is exclusively Western Polynesian. Its absence in Eastern Polynesia, as well as Samoa and Niue, throws doubt on the reconstruction to PPn. It seems more likely to have originated somewhere within Western Polynesia in post-PPn times. It is commonly attributed in the area to Uvea.

The Rotuma entry is identified by Pawley as a borrowing as follows:

Table 24. Rotuman maka 'sing, chant, etc' is marked as a borrowing by having k for expected glottal stop (AP).


PCPa *se(q)a :A kind of dance (Pollex)

The table is short and is therefore cited in full.

FIJ Lau Islands seasea women's dance (McL)

FIJ Vanua Levu seasea women's dance (McL)

FIJ Viti Levu seasea 'a kind of meke danced with fans by the women' (Capell 1983:189)

NKM hea young men's dance (McL)

OJA sea young men's dance (5 refs (McL))

ROT sea 'Native song'

SIK sea 'A kind of dance'

TIK sea 'a type of dance and associated song' (Firth 1985:430)

TON he'a entertainment, obsolete dance (McL)

With distribution limited to Fiji, near neighbours to Fiji, and a few Polynesian Outliers, the Pollex reconstruction of the term to PCPa may be appropriate. The seasea, however, is pre-eminently a dance of Fiji, and it could be that it has been borrowed directly or indirectly from there into all of the other areas in which cognates for it are now found.

Song Tables 26-35


PNPn *pese :Sing, song (Pollex)


The distribution of this term, which excludes Tonga and Niue, but extends from Samoa into the Polynesian Outliers in Western Polynesia, and from Tahiti as far as the Maori and Moriori of New Zealand, unquestionably confirms reconstruction to PNPn and to a common homeland which, on this evidence, is likely to have been Samoa.

Pawley adds:

Table 26. PNPn *pese 'sing, song'. I doubt if Rotuman fak/peje 'make a short ceremonial speech' is related to this. And I doubt if Maori pihe 'dirge, etc.' is related.


PPn *langi :Sing (Pollex)

SOL (1 (McL)), FIJ (1), FIJ (1 (McL)), MIC (1 (McL)), EAS, ECE, EFU, KAP, MAO, NKO, OJA, SAM, TAH, TAK, TIK, TOK, TON

The gloss 'sing' in PPn is based on just five examples (Fiji, Tuvalu, Samoa, Tonga, and Tokelau); in six areas it is a song or dance type (Ysabel, Takuu, Ontong Java, Tonga, Futuna, Tahiti); in three areas it means to start a song(Fiji, Kapingamarangi and Nukuoro): and in four areas it means an air or tune (Saipan, Tikopia, and NZ Maori) or to pitch a tune (Fiji, where there is the greatest diversity of meaning). It is not possible to determine with any certainty which of these meanings, if any, is the primary one, but in view of the distance apart of Saipan, Tikopia and New Zealand, 'air or tune' seems most likely with change to a different term for 'tune' becoming current later in Western Polynesia (see Table 30). It is a surprise to find an apparent cognate in Saipan. If this passes linguistic tests for cognacy, it could be that the term will eventually be found in an earlier subgroup than PPn.  

Pawley has doubts about the inclusion of Fiji:

Table 27. PPn *langi 'sing'. Inclusion of Fijian langa here is problematic. It has the wrong final vowel (AP).


POc *dongo to hear, listen, obey (Jackson & Marck 1991:146) [In current orthography *rongo (AP)]

PPn *rongo :to hear (Pollex)

Because of the complex associations surrounding this term, the table, though lengthy, is cited in full.

See Pollex for numerous Western and Eastern Polynesian entries of longo/rongo and similar terms with the primary meaning 'hear, listen, or news', with reconstruction to PPn.


Solomon Islands

Malaita Lau ro 'hear' (Ivens 1939:293)

Malaita Lau rongo 'to hear, listen' (Fox 1974:163)

Malaita Lau rongo 'to listen to, to perceive' (Ivens 1934:90)

Malaita Sa'a rongo, rorongo, rongorongo 'to hear, to listen, to hear tidings of, to understand' (Ivens 1939:293)

San Cristobal Arosi rongo dances (McL)

San Cristobal Arosi rongo 'to hear, listen, obey'; rongogoro 'sweet, musical of sound' (Fox 1970:380)

Ysabel rorongo 'to hear, receive a report; news, tidings' (Ivens 1940:53)

Ysabel rororo 'sing in opening or closing many ballads' (White 1988:168)



Banks Islands Mota rono; 'to feel, hear, smell, taste, apprehend by senses' (Codrington & Palmer 1896:(1)147)


New Caledonia

Nengone dredreng 'to listen to, hear, understand' (Tryon & Dubois 1969-71:(1)111)



Mariana Islands Saipan roong, rongo 'knowledge, specialty, medicine, lore, learning' (Jackson & Marck 1991:146)

Marshall Islands ron 'to hear' (Abo et al. 1976:252)

Marshall Islands roro hauling songs (McL)

Mokil rong 'to hear, to understand (what is said)'; rongda 'to find out by hearing'; rongdi 'to learn by hearing' (Harrison & Salich, 1977:79)

Puluwat rongorongo 'to hear' (Elbert 1972:159)

Truk rong 'to hear, obey, listen etc.' (Goodenough & Sugita 1980:311)

Truk ronga 'any endeavour that requires special knowledge and instruction to perform' (Goodenough & Sugita 1980:311)

Woleai rong (rongo) 'n. tradition knowledge that passes down from father to son, heritage in terms of wisdom'; rongorongo (rongo-rongo) 'v.i. to hear, listen to'; rongiiy (rongii-a) 'v.t. sing it, recite it, relate it, verbalize it'; rongirongi (rongi-rongi) 'v.n. to sing, recite, relate, verbalize' (Sohn & Tawerilmang 1976:124)


Polynesian Outliers

Rennell gogongo song of praise or thanks to a god (McL)

Rennell gongo 'to hear, listen, feel, taste'; gongogongo 'to listen carefully' (Elbert 1975: (1)62)


Western Polynesia

E. Futuna lolongo chorus grouped around rolled mats (McL)

E. Uvea lolongo chorus grouped around rolled mats (McL)

Niue lologo chanted songs (McL)

Niue lolongo ancient songs (McL)

Niue lolongo v. to sing; n. song, hymn' (McEwen 1970:164)

Niue longo 'n. bell; drum hollowed out of wood' (McEwen 1970:165)

Samoa logo 'large slit gong used for announcing church services' (Moyle 1988:35)

Samoa logo 'perceive (by hearing or some other sense, other than sight); large wooden gong (used for calling people to church); bell or other device used for the same purpose'. fa'alogo 'hear; listen, pay attention, obey, feel' (Milner 1993:110)

Samoa logo 'sound or noise' (Moyle 1988:36)

Tuvalu longo 'perceive, feel (the stress of work etc.)'; 'learn some specialist skill' (Noricks 1981:(1)88)


Eastern Polynesia

Easter Island rongorongo class of chanters (McL)

Mangareva rogorogo class of experts (McL)

Mangareva rongorongo priestly caste charged with religious chants and stories (McL)

Marquesas Islands tuhuna o'ono tribal bards and professional chanters (Métraux 1957:187–8)

NZ Maori rongo 'apprehend by the senses, except sight; tidings, report, fame'; rarango 'repeat the commencement of a song'; rongoa 'preserve, take care of' (Williams 1975:346)

Society Islands rongorongo used for chanting of prayers (McL)

Tokelau logo 'bell, large wooden gong' (Office 1986:142)

Tuamotu Islands rongo formal chants about exploits of a hero; mourning chant for a deceased hero (McL)

Tuamotu Islands rorogo to sing in war (McL)

Represented in both POc and PPn, here is an almost full range of cognates, present in its primary sense of 'hear, listen, obey' in Micronesia, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, the Polynesian Outliers, the remainder of Western Polynesia, and extending from there to Eastern Polynesia, including the famous rongorongo men of Easter Island, and, even as far afield as New Zealand. It may be significant, however, that, except in the Solomon Islands, musical associations of the term do not appear in the Melanesian areas traversed by Lapita potters on their way to Fiji. Such associations become prominent only in Micronesia and the Outliers, doing so by duplication and reduplication of the primary term to add meanings relating to acquisition of knowledge. The significance for music lies in the use of song as a vehicle for the transmission of knowledge from generation to generation in societies whose only means of doing so was through oral tradition. By and large this seems to have been a Polynesian and perhaps Micronesian trait rather than a Melanesian one, accounting for the regional differences in the above table, and again suggesting a Micronesian rather than Melanesian connection to Polynesia.


PAn *tangi 'weep'

POc *tangi 'weep, cry'

PPn *tangi :Cry, weep (Pollex)

BIS (2 (McL)), SOL (1), SOL (5 (McL)), VAN (2 (McL)), FIJ (2), MIC (3 (McL))


This is a huge category and in its primary meaning 'to cry' there is not the least doubt of its provenience all the way back to PAn. In its application to song, meaning 'dirge' or 'lament', performed as a rule in association with mourning or funeral ceremonies, examples are many fewer. They are limited largely to Eastern and Western Polynesia, in the latter case with extension of meaning to encompass songs within a story.


The table is cited in full.

EFU fatsi tune (McL)

EUV fasi tune or air of a song (McL)

FIJ Lau Islands fasi one who starts the singing (McL)

MAN fatifati improvisation (McL)

NIU fati lolongo 'to compose songs, a poet' (McEwen 1970:35)

SAM fati a tune (McL)

TAK hati '1. n. Chorus, refrain of a song; 2. vi. Sing the chorus or refrain of a song' (RMTD)

TOK fati 'tune, melody' (Office 1986:497)

TON fasi 'melody or song leader' (Moyle 1987:253)

TON fasi melody, voice part in tenor range (McL)

No published reconstruction has been found of this term. It serves principally as a Western Polynesian equivalent of the probably older term rangi (Table 27) as a word for 'melody or tune'.   


PPn *Pulotu :Composer of songs (Pollex)

Again the table is cited in full.

EFU pulotu 'Maitre de danse, de chant; pr‚ tendu demeure des dieux, ciel des ancient Futuniens'

EUV pulotu dance leader (McL)

EUV Pulotu 'Demeure des anciens dieux Polyn siens; celui qui dirige les chants et danses'

EUV pulotu song and dance leader (McL)

FIJ Lau Islands pulotu chorus (McL)

MVA porutu lauditory song (McL)

NKM puloto leading dancer (McL)

REN pugotu 'Song composer; to sing, as to practice, or while working'

REN hakapugotu 'song composer' (Elbert 1975:(1)237)

SAM pulotu sounding board (6 refs (McL))

SAM pulotu 'The native drum; residence of the gods'

SIK pulotu 'Dance drum; beat dance drum'

TAH purotu = hura dance (McL)

TAK purotu 'Hymn-leader'

TAK purotu, 'n. Hereditary performing arts specialist. (A male expert in performing and teaching a clan's entire song and dance repertoire, and also beating the slit drum on the ritual arena to accompany them' (RMTD)

TIK porutu expert, song and dance leader, composer (McL)

TIK purotu 'Expert, especially in song and dance, but also general'

TOK pulotu 'Song composer'

TON pulotu 'Composer of songs and dances'

Although the term reconstructs to PPn, the gloss of 'composer of songs' is far from uniform and is confined to Western Polynesia.


PPn *sua :Commence a chant or song (Pollex)

Because of the range of meanings, the table has been cited in full.

EFU sua leader solo, introduction to a song (McL)

EFU sua 'Sing'

EUV hua 'Entonner; chanter'

EUV hua leader solo, introduction to a song (McL)

HAW hua 'Word, letter, figure, watchword, speak'

KAP hua 'to sing, to chant' (Lieber 1974:104)

MAO whaka/hua 'Pronounce, recite'

MQA hua 'Le meme, renvenir, recommencer, refrain d'un cantique'

MVA hua 'Begin a story, an account, a prayer, and continue with assistants'

NIU huanga 'entry, entrance' (McEwen 1970:95)

NKO hua 'sing a song' (Carroll 1973:245)

RAR ua 'the second supporting part of a song' (Savage 1962:427)

REN hua historical songs (McL)

REN huaa 'to begin'; hakahu'a song, to sing a song' (Elbert 1975:(1)97)

ROT sua 'Start, lead a song'

SAM afua 'begin' (Milner 1993:6)

SAM sua 'denotes a gentle movement, but suali a sudden or violent movement' (Milner 1993:217)

SIK sua/mele 'Type of song'

TAK hua 'vtr. Sing (a song); npl. Songs in general' (RMTD)

TAK sua/mere 'A type of dance'

TON hua 'Begin song'

TUA hua leader solo, introduction to a song (McL)

TUA Hua/a 'Commence to chant'

This term is unquestionably PPn with a gloss, as suggested in Pollex, of 'commence a chant or song' at the proto level and change of meaning in Western Polynesia after the separation of Eastern Polynesia.


PNPn *oli-oli :A chant (Pollex)

The table is cited in full.

NGM Mailu Map code 367 oriori wife marrying spell (McL)

ECE oli game song (McL)

ECE olioli 'Prayer for good fishing catch'

HAW oli(oli) 'A chant that was not danced to'

KAP oriori 'Prayer' (obs.)

KAP oriori spells, prayers (McL)

MAO oriori song type in the form of a lullaby (McL)

NIU olioli 'Rejoice'

NIU olioli 'the movement of the legs in swimming' (McEwen 1970:253)

NKO olioli 'Put to sleep by singing lullaby'

OJA olioli 'A type of singing and song'

OJA olioli victory songs for winners of canoe races, mixed chorus songs devoted to the sea (McL)

REN ogiogi 'Worship, comfort (a child)' (Ebt)

SIK olioli 'A type of chant'

TAK oriori '1. n. Song type, introduced from Nukumanu in the 20th century; 2. A song type performed while striking lengths of hollow bamboo tubing on the ground for accompaniment; 3. vi. Perform an oriori song; sing songs beside a corpse; 4. vi. Comprise funerary rites' (RMTD)

TIK oriori 'recite formula of thanks; funeral dance' (Firth 1985:320)

TUA ori 'Revive by incantation'

The apparent association between Mailu and Kapingamarangi is surprising, and no explanation can be offered. Elsewhere the term has several meanings of which those relating to types of chanting are the most common and are reconstructed in Pollex to PNPn. It will be noted that although the term oli relates to dance in some areas, in Hawai'i it designates absence of dance. In its reduplicated form of olioli in Hawaiian it refers to a quavering or shaking of the voice at the ends of song phrases, known also as i'i. In New Zealand, the cognate, oriori, of the Hawaiian term, besides referring to a song type generally glossed as 'lullaby' has a not widely known second meaning descriptive of vowel alternation at the ends of song lines in the Waikato region, the effect of which is similar to the Hawaiian olioli. There may be a relationship between 'shaking' in this sense and applications of the term to dance.


PMP *batur 'to plait, weave (as mats, baskets)'

POc *patu(R), *patuR-i- 'tie, plait, weave (mats, baskets)' (Lexicon)

PPn *fatu 'to fold, bend, lash' (Elbert 1975: (1)86)

PPn *fatu :Weave, compose (e.g. a song) (Pollex)

NGM (3), BIS (2), SOL (3), VAN (2), FIJ (1), MIC (1 (McL)), ECE (McL), EFU, HAW, MAO, MQA, NIU, PUK, RAR, REN, SAM, TAH, TAK, TIK, TOK, TON, TUA

This is the term that provides the title for the McLean book Weavers of Song (1999). It is one of the most consistent and striking of the musical terms present in both Western and Eastern Polynesia, and there is not the least doubt that it is of PPn provenience. Equally striking is that although the term reconstructs in its primary sense of 'to weave' as far back as PMP, it does not pick up its connotation of 'to compose' until it reaches Polynesia, becoming a prime example of use of a general term in specialised context. There are no clues here, however, to indicate the direction taken by pre-Polynesians after leaving their POc area of origin. For a discussion of the weaving image as applied to composition see McLean 1999:384-5.


CEPn *karioi : Idle, devoted to sensual amusement; such a person (Pollex)


For accounts of the famous Arioi society of entertainers of Tahiti and Ka'ioi of the Marquesas Islands see McLean 1999:21ff, 260. As indicated by the reconstruction the term is exclusive to Eastern Polynesia.


Conclusions from reconstructions

Use of general terms

As pointed out in the notes for Table 5, where the term pahu 'drum' in Eastern Polynesia is found to have derived from the PPn term pasu 'to thump', a notable tendency throughout Oceania is the application of general terms to specific uses in some but not all of the areas in which the word occurs. Two well-known examples of this in Oceania, described by ethnomusicologists Hugo Zemp and Steven Feld, are the use of bamboo terms for musical instruments by the 'Are'are of Malaita in the Solomon Islands, and the use of waterfall terms to designate music structure by the Kaluli people of the Papua New Guinea Highlands (McLean 2006:306-7 where further examples are also given). When, as is usually the case, such extensions of term are area specific, it is inappropriate to include them in the gloss at the proto level. Some further examples from the PPn reconstructions of musical instruments in the first few tables above are:

Table 6 kofe bamboo but not 'flute'; Table 9 fangufangu 'blow through nose' but not 'nose flute'; and Table 14 tete 'to shiver' but not 'jews harp' or 'musical bow', which are independent applications of the general term. In the domain of song, an outstanding example of extended use is PPn 'to weave' (Table 34), with the metaphorical meaning also of 'compose a song', in this case at the PPn level along with the primary term.

Distributional evidence for reconstructions

In the tables, three principles underlie the assessments made there of putative POc and PPn reconstructions. First, an effort is made to determine the exact geographical locations of language groups and their relation to each other. Second, before a reconstruction to POc can be accepted as significant it is considered essential for a reasonable spread of daughter languages to be present. And third, before accepting a reconstruction to PPn, it is regarded as necessary for cognates to be present in both Western and Eastern Polynesia. Absence in both Tonga and Niue relegates the reconstruction to PNPn.


Reconstruction to PNPn

Four terms have been found unequivocally in this category, two related to dance, and two to singing. The implication for these terms is that they originated in an area that became Samoic.

PNPn *kapa :Dance (Table 20)

PNPn *saka :Dance (Table 21)

PNPn *pese :Sing, song (Table 26)

PNPn *oli-oli :A chant (Table 33)

Other terms which have been reconstructed to PNPn fall on either side of a divide, belonging in some cases to Eastern Polynesia alone, or in others qualifying as fully PPn.

PNPn  Puu :Trumpet (Table 2) could be PPn

PNPn *pasu :Drum (Table 5) should be CEPn

PNPn *paatee :Wooden gong (Table 19) should be CEPn

PNPn *(f, s)ula :Dance (Table 22) could be PPn


Song and dance

The indigenous music and dance terms in the tables are a fraction only of those known for Oceania at large. In Polynesia alone it is not unusual to find 30 or more named song and dance types associated with a particular culture. The McLean files include terms for numerous song use categories inclusive, as may be expected, of incantations, laments, and love songs, but ranging from birth and boasting songs through to war songs and work songs as follows:

Birth songs, boasting songs, children's songs, courting songs, divinatory songs, entertainment songs, enumeration songs, erotic songs, farewell songs, fighting songs, food-bearing songs, funeral songs, game songs, greeting songs, hauling songs, incantations, initiation songs, insulting songs, juggling songs, laments, love songs, marriage songs, narrative songs, obscene songs, paddling songs, praise songs, satirical songs, spirit songs, tattooing songs, taunting songs, teasing songs, toddy songs, top-spinning songs, topical songs, war songs, welcome songs, and work songs.

Most are local, spreading further, if at all, only to adjacent island groups as a result of borrowing relationships, and are accordingly mostly unrepresented in the present study.  


Terms for singing

In Polynesia there are two forms of singing, designated in musicological terms as sung and recited respectively, and represented in the tables by PNPn *pese :Sing, song (Table 26) for the recited form, and PPn *langi :Sing (Table 27) as its sung counterpart when referring to songs that are melodically as well as rhythmically organised.

Additionally, three tables include entries with glosses 'to sing' which result from extension of different but related general terms. They are hiva/siva (Table 23) which involve singing and dancing but initially probably meant 'entertainment'; pulot/purotu 'composer or leader: (Table 31), in this sense specific to Western Polynesia; and hua/sua 'to lead a song' (Table 32).

Although linguistic techniques have been worked out to identify proto terms, uncertainties can surround the gloss if the term has more than one meaning in daughter languages, and again it is distributional evidence that can provide a solution. A case in point is the rangi term for 'to sing' which in three widely separated areas means 'air or tune', suggesting that this may be the original meaning (Table 27). In this sense it has been overtaken in Western Polynesia by an alternative term fasi or fati (Table 30). Comments on other cases can be found in the table notes. 


Terms for dance

As noted for song types, there are a huge number of terms for types of dance in Oceania, including scores for Micronesia alone, but with no obvious cognates elsewhere except for adjacent areas. Some exceptions for Polynesia at large are PPn *kapa (Table 20), PPn *saka (Table 21), PNPn *hula (Table 22), PPn *siwa (Table 23), and PPn *mako (Table 24). All are PPn or PNPn and, with the possible exception of Table 21 (see Table note), have no apparent affiliations with POc.


Contrast between POc and PPn

A major finding of the present study, turning up, in fact in the very first tables, is that music terms in POc and PPn tend to be mutually exclusive. Table 1 features a set of over 30 related terms for shell trumpet, reconstructed to both PMP and POc, beginning in West Papua and along the north coast of Papua New Guinea and stretching from there through the Bismarck Archipelago, into Micronesia, and through Island Melanesia to Fiji. There, however, it stops, to be supplanted by a complementary distribution for the same instrument. Beyond Fiji, throughout both Western and Eastern Polynesia, the conch is known by the different name pu, (Table 2) and reconstructs not to POc but to PPn. This could perhaps be dismissed as an oddity were it not that similar distributions occur also for other items of cultural inventory as follows:

Table 7 POc *kaur 'bamboo' but not 'musical instruments'. Contrasts with PPn *kofe 'bamboo' Table 6.

Table 13 gab, bap 'jews harp'. Contrasts with ukeke, utete and PPn *Tete 'Shiver, tremble' Table 14 for Polynesia.

Table 16 POc *dali 'slit gong' incl. Fiji lali. Contrasts with Polynesian terms (Tables 17-19).

A dichotomy also exists between Melanesia and Polynesia with regard to flutes, though not in this case marked by reconstructions in POc and PPn. Melanesia is characterised by mouth flutes and Polynesia by nose flutes, with Micronesia standing between as a kind of halfway house, with both forms of instrument present, and a variety of names are applied to flutes in all areas.


Terms for 'to blow'

There are three terms with the meaning 'to blow' as applied to musical instruments. Two are of primary significance in Polynesia and one in Melanesia; the first is associated with conch trumpets, the second with nose flutes, and the third with both trumpets and mouth flutes; and all have affiliations at POc level or earlier. They are pusi (Table 3), fango (Table 9), and ifi/ufi (Table 8), as follows:

  • Pusi co-occurs in Polynesia with the term pu for shell trumpet or conch (Table 2) and because of this contrasts with the Melanesian term for the same instrument (Table 1). It reconstructs at the earliest level to PMP *pusi :To blow air from the mouth, but except in most of Polynesia has the different though related meaning of 'to squirt', suggesting that this may have been its original meaning at the proto level.  
  • As observed in the table notes, the distribution of Fango or fangu 'blow nose' is similar to that of the complementary term pusi 'to blow from the mouth', appearing in the reduplicated form of fangofango or fangufangu in Polynesia as 'nose flute', just as 'pusi' appears in cut-down form of pu as shell trumpet. The distribution of the term also correlates with the related term fafagu 'to awaken' (Table 10), tracking back in this incarnation to POc and PAn.
  • Although entering into Polynesia like the other two terms, the ifi/ufi term for 'to blow' is fundamentally Melanesian, appearing extensively in the Solomon Islands as a term for blowing mouth flutes, trumpets, and panpipes, and migrating from there into the Polynesian Outliers and thence further into Western Polynesia, most likely long after Lapita times if panpipe diffusion can be taken as a guide.


Post 2000 BP distributions

After about 2000 BP, when Eastern Polynesia was colonised from a Western Polynesian homeland, each of the now separate areas continued to develop, both internally and in terms of interactions with other areas. In Micronesia, even the settlement of the eastern Nuclear Micronesian language area is believed to have taken place largely after this date, and both Western and Eastern Polynesia went their own separate ways. The inventory of terms in the respective areas reflect the process. Innovations which took place in Eastern Polynesia subsequent to settlement from Western Polynesia include development of the pahu form of cylindrical drum, already referred to (Table 5), the pate (Table 19) and tokere (Table 18) forms of slit gong, the name vivo applied to the nose flute (Table 12), and the rise of the famous 'Arioi society of Tahiti in the Society Islands (Table 35).    

In its song and dance terminology, Western Polynesia is much more homogeneous than Eastern Polynesia, and some terms are exclusive or near exclusive to it. Examples include the term fangufangu as applied to nose flutes (Table 9); the nafa form of slit gong or sounding board (Table 17); mako 'dance, or dance type' (Table 24); the term pulotu/purotu as 'composer of songs' (Table 31); and numerous others not in the tables, reflecting ongoing intercommunication and exchange of items following separation of the two areas (see McLean 1999 for further examples).


Implications for Polynesian origins


As an example of areal differentiation, the two radically different and mutually exclusive terms for shell trumpet in Tables 1 and 2, representing POc and PPn respectively, is almost enough on its own to invalidate the conventional theory of Polynesian origin from Lapita potters. These early settlers must have belonged to the cognate family of Table 1, present both in Fiji and antecedent areas as far back as Proto Malayo-Polynesian. So if Polynesians originated in this group why did they not use the POc term, with which they would have been familiar, and which is without trace anywhere in Polynesia? If even some of the pre-Polynesians came from this group surely they would have retained the term used by everyone else at this time. Instead they adopted the term puu (Table 2), which occurs almost universally throughout both Western and Eastern Polynesia, but is all but absent elsewhere. Nor, as will be seen, is this the only apparent loss of terms from POc.

The explanation most commonly advanced for apparent attrition and replacement of lexical terms is that this results from "bottlenecking" or "founder effect" after a small group of speakers becomes separated from the parent group and subsequently develops in isolation. This self-evidently took place in Eastern Polynesia after this area was colonised by one or more canoe loads of settlers who made a one-way voyage from Western Polynesia. As a process it is more problematic as an explanation for extinction of terms in the Proto Polynesian homeland, where water gaps were not as daunting, and opportunities for intercommunication were present. The necessary isolation would more readily have occurred either if separation from Proto Oceanic took place earlier than supposed, or did so out of Micronesia rather than Island Melanesia, and also to be taken into account is the possibility that some of the terms currently attributed to POc in fact emerged after Proto Polynesian had already begun to develop and were absent from PPn at the outset.



In addition to the conch, three other complexes of instruments are mutually exclusive in POc or PWOc and PPn. They are the flute, the jews harp, and the slit gong, all present in the Lapita area of New Britain and, except for the jews harp, extending as far as Fiji, but taking a different form with different terminology in Polynesia. Of these instruments, the flute is the most contentious. As already indicated, Polynesia is characterised by nose flutes and Melanesia by flutes that are mouth blown. There is, however, a notable exception in Fiji where a nose flute, termed dulali, is present. Table 11 lists dulali cognates which are found to occur in the area of Lapita origin in New Britain, and the term has been reconstructed with antecedents as far back as Taiwan to PAn *tulani 'bamboo nose flute'. Moreover, the Fijian dulali turns out to be almost identical in structure, playing method and even scale of notes to the Tongan nose flute (Crowe 1984). At first sight this seems supportive of the Lapita hypothesis of Polynesian origins, with derivation of the Polynesian nose flute from the Fijian dulali. With closer scrutiny, however, the argument begins to unravel. First, the gloss of nose flute at the proto level turns out to be probably mistaken (see note for Table 11). Second, if nose flutes were indeed introduced into Polynesia through Fiji, one would expect a substantial presence of nose flutes in the Bismarck area of origin, as well as a trail of both nose flutes and the tulali term on the way to Fiji. But they are not there. Instead, flutes are mouth-blown throughout the area, including those with the tulali name. It would seem probable, therefore, that the nose flute was not introduced into Polynesia from Fiji but that the contact went the other way, with Fiji receiving the nose flute from Tonga, and each area continuing to use its own accustomed name for flute which would initially have been a mouth flute in Fiji.

Where, then, did Polynesian nose flutes come from if not from the tulali and Lapita potters? The answer lies with the most common Polynesian term for nose flute, namely fangufangu, which derives from the term fango ''to blow with the nose' (Table 9) and is associated also with fafango 'to awaken' (Table 10). The two tables together form an interrelated complex with results pointing unequivocally to Micronesia as the area of origin for Polynesian nose flutes, with direct connection between Micronesia and Western Polynesia, and no cognates of any kind in Melanesia, including the area of Lapita origin in the Bismarck Archipelago. Dempwolff's reconstruction of PAn *bangun (Dempwolff 1975:(3) 20) for the 'awaken' term is especially significant because of the plainly related terms yangin, aangyn, angin, anin, angun for 'nose flute' in Puluwat and Truk in the Caroline Islands of Micronesia. As earlier noted, this is the very area found by Herzog to exhibit Polynesian-type music structure. Taken together, this is compelling evidence for a Micronesian rather than Island Melanesian migration path for Polynesians, with no involvement on the part of Lapita potters, and no suggestion that the introduction of nose flutes could have been a late rather than early event or took place in the opposite direction as a borrowing from Polynesia.


Jews harp

In the same general area as tulali flute cognates, but in a highly local portion of it limited to New Britain and New Ireland, are terms of evidently post-Lapita origin, possibly of PWOc provenience, and, like flutes, contrasting with terms in Polynesia. In this case, however, even though the reconstruction suggests an origin later than Lapita, it may not be nearly late enough, judging from the term hapa, which looks plainly cognate with gapa, but in this case refers to a European jews harp, and is just as plainly cognate with 'harp'.


Slit gong

Special significance is attached to the slit gong. Its distribution identifies it along with the conch as one of the most widespread instruments to be associated with speakers of Austronesian languages and, as such, with the Lapita people and/or their immediate successors.

The sole credible reconstructed POc term for slit gong is POc *rali or *dali (Table 16) with a starting point in the Admiralty Islands, an end point with the Fijian lali, and intermediate cognates only in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. This coincides absolutely with the currently accepted route for Lapita potters which took them through central Vanuatu, where slit gongs are still to be found, bypassing southern Vanuatu and New Caledonia, where slit gongs are absent from the traditional inventory of instruments. Again, however, Fiji represents an end-point for the term, with both the Fijian form of slit gong and the Fijian name for it spreading further not by descent from lineal ancestors but by known later borrowing into Western Polynesian areas with their own forms of slit gong which thenceforth co-existed with the lali. Slit gongs are not in contention in Micronesia as they are absent there, and in Eastern Polynesia the slit gong takes an independently derived form which evolved from beaten bamboo.

The only convincing explanation for all of the above is that for the terms under consideration PPn is not connected to POc through Island Melanesia as proposed in the now standard view of Polynesian origin, but developed independently having reached its home area by a different path which must have included Micronesia. 

>>> Chapter 7. Physical anthropology and genetics