|Southeast Asia, East Asia, the Pacific, Madagascar|
The western sphere of Malayo-Polynesian languages. (The bottom three are Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian)
South Halmahera-West New Guinea (non Oceanic eastern Malayo-Polynesian)
Oceanic languages (other eastern Malayo-Polynesian)the westernmost
The branches of the Oceanic languages: Palauan and Chamorro. The black circles in with the green are offshore Papuan languages.
The Malayo-Polynesian languages are a subgroup of the Austronesian languages, with approximately 385.5 million speakers. The Malayo-Polynesian languages are spoken by the Austronesian people of the island nations of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Ocean, with a smaller number in continental Asia, going well into the Malay peninsula. Cambodia and Vietnam serve as the northwest geographic outlier. On the northernmost geographical outlier does not pass beyond the north of Pattani, which is located in southern Thailand. Malagasy is spoken in the island of Madagascar located off the eastern coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. Part of the language family shows a strong influence of Sanskrit and Arabic as the western part of the region has been a stronghold of Hinduism, Buddhism and, later, Islam.
Two morphological characteristics of the Malayo-Polynesian languages are a system of affixation and the reduplication (repetition of all or part of a word, such as wiki-wiki) to form new words. Like other Austronesian languages they have small phonemic inventories; thus a text has few but frequent sounds. The majority also lack consonant clusters (e.g., [str] in English). Most also have only a small set of vowels, five being a common number.
The Nuclear Malayo-Polynesian languages are spoken by about 230 million people and include Malay (Indonesian and Malaysian), Sundanese, Javanese, Buginese, Balinese, Acehnese; and also the Oceanic languages, including Tolai, Gilbertese, Fijian, and Polynesian languages such as Hawaiian, M?ori, Samoan, Tahitian, and Tongan. Malay is also the native language in Singapore and Brunei.
The Philippine languages, whose genetic unity is still disputed, also belong to the Malayo-Polynesian language family, and are spoken in total by more than 100 million people across Orchid Island Taiwan, the entire Philippine archipelago, and the northern part of Sulawesi. Some major Philippine languages include Tagalog (base of Filipino), Cebuano, Ilokano, Hiligaynon, Central Bikol, Waray, and Kapampangan, each with at least three million speakers.
The Malayo-Polynesian languages share several phonological and lexical innovations with the eastern Formosan languages, including the leveling of proto-Austronesian *t, *C to /t/ and *n, *N to /n/, a shift of *S to /h/, and vocabulary such as *lima "five" which are not attested in other Formosan languages. However, it does not align with any one branch.
Malayo-Polynesian consists of a large number of small local language clusters, with the one exception being Oceanic, the only large group which is universally accepted; its parent language Proto-Oceanic has been reconstructed in all aspects of its structure (phonology, lexicon, morphology and syntax). All other large groups within Malayo-Polynesian are controversial.
The most influential proposal for the internal subgrouping of the Malayo-Polynesian languages was made by Robert Blust who presented several papers advocating a division into two major branches, viz. Western Malayo-Polynesian and Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian.
Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian is widely accepted as a subgroup, although some objections have been raised against its validity as a genetic subgroup. On the other hand, Western Malayo-Polynesian is now generally held (including by Blust himself) to be an umbrella term without genetic relevance. Taking into account the Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian hypothesis, the Malayo-Polynesian languages can be divided into the following subgroups (proposals for larger subgroups are given below):
The Malayo-Sumbawan languages are a proposal by Adelaar (2005) which unites the Malayo-Chamic languages, the Bali-Sasak-Sumbawa languages, Madurese and Sundanese into a single subgroup based on phonological and lexical evidence.
The Greater North Borneo hypothesis, which unites all languages spoken on Borneo except for the Barito languages together with the Malayo-Chamic languages, Rejang and Sundanese into a single subgroup, was first proposed by Blust (2010) and further elaborated by Smith (2017, 2017a).
Because of the inclusion of Malayo-Chamic and Sundanese, the Greater North Borneo hypothesis is incompatible with Adelaar's Malayo-Sumbawan proposal. Consequently, Blust explicitly rejects Malayo-Sumbawan as a subgroup. The Greater North Borneo subgroup is based solely on lexical evidence.
Based on a proposal initially brought forward by Blust (2010) as an extension of the Greater North Borneo hypothesis, Smith (2017) unites several Malayo-Polynesian subgroups in a "Western Indonesian" group, thus greatly reducing the number of primary branches of Malayo-Polynesian:
Edwards (2015) argues that Enggano is a primary branch of Malayo-Polynesian. However, this is disputed by Smith (2017), who considers Enggano to have undergone significant internal changes, but was once much more like the other Sumatran languages in Sumatra.
Zobel (2002) proposes a Nuclear Malayo-Polynesian subgroup, based on putative shared innovations in the Austronesian alignment and syntax found throughout Indonesia apart from much of Borneo and the north of Sulawesi. This subgroup comprises the languages of the Greater Sunda Islands (Malayo-Chamic, Northwest Sumatra-Barrier Islands, Lampung, Sundanese, Javanese, Madurese, Bali-Sasak-Sumbawa) and most of Sulawesi (Celebic, South Sulawesi), Palauan, Chamorro and the Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian languages. This hypothesis is one of the few attempts to link certain Western Malayo-Polynesian languages with the Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian languages in a higher intermediate clade, but has received little further scholarly attention.