Human Behavior and Evolution Society 2008: Pacific Settlement and Austronesian Languages

I will be talking about Pacific settlement and Austronesian languages at the Human Behavior and Evolution Society meeting next week in Kyoto, Japan:

The settlement of the Pacific is one of the great chapters of human history. This region was settled by the Austronesian people during the last 10,000 years, eventually encompassing the region from Taiwan, to Hawaii, Easter Island (Rapanui), New Zealand, and Madagascar. Along the way, these people carried with them a distinctive “Lapita” culture and one of the largest language families in the world. There are two competing scenarios for this Austronesian expansion: either a rapid tree-like spread from Taiwan beginning around 6000 BP, or an expansion from a deeper Island South-East Asia origin around 17,000 BP. Over the last few years we have built a large comparative database of linguistic information from these languages and have begun using phylogenetic methods to explore Austronesian origins. The results of some phylogenetic analyses on 400 of these languages will be presented, along with what these results tell us about Pacific prehistory.