Nuclear Malayo-Polynesian languages

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Nuclear Malayo-Polynesian
Southeast Asia and the Pacific
Linguistic classification Austronesian
Glottolog None
The principal branches of the Nuclear Malayo-Polynesian languages:
  Eastern Malayo-Polynesian (excluding Oceanic)
  Oceanic (vast majority off-map)

The Nuclear Malayo-Polynesian languages are a putative 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 Malayo-Polynesian languages that have abandoned the Austronesian alignment inherited from Proto-Malayo-Polynesian syntax. Nuclear Malayo-Polynesian includes the traditional geographic groupings of Central–Eastern Malayo-Polynesian and part of Western Malayo-Polynesian, a part Wouk and Ross call the Sunda–Sulawesi languages. Nuclear Malayo-Polynesian excludes the Borneo–Philippine languages. Sunda–Sulawesi is therefore defined negatively, as those languages of the Greater Sunda Islands 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]