Nuclear Malayo-Polynesian languages

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Nuclear Malayo-Polynesian
South East Asia and the Pacific
Linguistic classification: Austronesian
Glottolog: None
The principal branches of the Nuclear Malayo-Polynesian languages:
  Sunda–Sulawesi (Chamorro off-map)
  Central Malayo-Polynesian
  Eastern Malayo-Polynesian
  Oceanic (vast majority off-map)

The Nuclear Malayo-Polynesian languages are a branch of the Austronesian family, proposed by Wouk & Ross (2002), that are thought to have dispersed from a possible homeland in Sulawesi. They are called nuclear because they are the conceptual core of the Malayo-Polynesian family, including both Malay and Polynesian. Nuclear Malayo-Polynesian is found throughout Indonesia, apart from central Borneo, Sabah, and the north of Sulawesi, and into Melanesia and the Pacific.

Nuclear Malayo-Polynesian languages are those that have abandoned the Austronesian alignment inherited from proto-Malayo-Polynesian syntax. These include the traditional geographic groupings of Central Malayo-Polynesian, Eastern Malayo-Polynesian, and part of Western Malayo-Polynesian, a part Wouk and Ross call Inner Western Malayo-Polynesian.

Inner Western Malayo-Polynesian (Sunda–Sulawesi) is therefore defined negatively, those languages of Sunda and Sulawesi not included in Central–Eastern Malayo-Polynesian. Central–Eastern is an areal group, divergent from the rest of Malayo-Polynesian due to non-Austronesian (Papuan) substrata rather than due to any genealogical relationship.


There are a number of small clusters of languages whose interrelationship remains uncertain. Grouped by geography, they are:

(Central and southern Sulawesi)

(Greater Sunda Islands)

(Western Pacific islands)

(Moluccas, New Guinea, Oceania)

The position of Rejang in southwest Sumatra and newly discovered Nasal are as yet uncertain. Rejang may be a displaced Bornean Dayak language, and not Nuclear Malayo-Polynesian at all.



  • Fay Wouk and Malcolm Ross (ed.), 2002, The history and typology of western Austronesian voice systems. Australian National University.
  • K. Alexander Adelaar and Nikolaus Himmelmann, 2005, The Austronesian languages of Asia and Madagascar. Routledge.
  • Austronesian Basic Vocabulary Database[1]