Austronesians

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The Austronesians as Viewed by Peter Bellwood, Wilhelm Solheim II, and Zeus Salazar
Prepared by Jezza Mae S. Dajac

The term Austronesian contextually refers to a population group present in Southeast Asia or Oceania who speaks, or had ancestors who spoke, one of the Austronesian languages. Apart from the Polynesian people of Oceania, the Austronesian people include: Taiwanese Aborigines, the majority ethnic groups of East Timor, Indonesia and Malaysia. There had been several theories that posit the Austronesians as the origin of the Philippine population. Among the leading proponents of these ideas are Australian National University professor Peter Bellwood, American anthropologist and the most senior practitioner of archaeology in Southeast Asia Wilhelm Solheim II, and Filipino anthropologist Zeus Salazar. Their viewpoints are to be separately presented here. Bellwood's Austronesian Diffusion Theory/ Out-of-Taiwan (OOT) Hypothesis/ Mainland Origin Hypothesis Rather than believing that Austroloids were the ancestors of the Filipino race, Professor Bellwood argued that Austronesians were the roots of the population inhabiting most of the Asian territories today. His Out-of-Taiwan Hypothesis is based largely on linguistics and is mainly derived from American linguistic Robert Blust’ model of Austronesian diffusion, lately known as the Blust model. Bellwood incorporated archaeological data to Blust’s idea to arrive at his own theory. He posited that between 4500 BCE and 4000 BCE, developments in agricultural technology in the Yunnan Plateau in China created pressures which drove certain people to migrate to Taiwan. This is what explains the term “Out-of-Taiwan Hypothesis”. Bellwood also believed that these people either already had or began to develop a unique language of their own, which he referred to as “Proto-Austronesian”. By around 3000-3500 BCE, these groups started differentiating into three or four distinct subcultures, and by 2500 to 1500 BC, one of these groups began migrating southwards towards the Philippines and Indonesia, reaching as far as Borneo and the Moluccas by 1500 BCE, forming new cultural groupings and developing unique languages. He called all the languages formed outside Taiwan “Malayo-Polynesian”. Meanwhile, the language developed in the Philippines and Indonesia was then termed “Western Malayo-Polynesian” By 1500 BC, some of these groups started migrating west, rand they reached the Madagascar area around the 1st millennium. Still others migrated east, settling as far as Easter Island by the mid-13th century. This widespread movement gave the Austronesian language group the distinction of being the most widely distributed language groups in the world at that time, in terms of the geographical span of the homelands of its languages. Bellwood’s simplified theory about the origin of the Filipino race then, is that the people of the Philippines are the descendants of those cultures who remained on the Philippine islands when others moved first southwards, then eastward and westward.

Solheim's Nusantao Maritime Trading and Communication Network (NMTCN) or the Island Origin Theory

According to the anthropologist Wilhelm Solheim II: "I emphasize again, as I have done in many other articles, that 'Austronesian' is a linguistic term and is the name of a super language family. It should never be used as a name for a people, genetically speaking, or a culture. To refer to people who speak an Austronesian language the phrase 'Austronesian speaking people' should be used." This statement emphasized that the pioneers of the Austronesian-as-the-origin-of-Southeast Asians idea posits that the Austronesian is a group of languages rather that a group of people. Wilhelm Solheim's concept of the Nusantao Maritime Trading and Communication Network (NMTCN), while not strictly a theory regarding the biological ancestors of modern Southeast Asians, does suggest that the patterns of cultural diffusion...
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