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The Austronesian family includes the Malayo-Polynesian languages and a few other odds and ends. (Austronesian means "southern islands" in Greek.) This massive language family boasts over 1,000 languages, making it the largest family in the world.
As you might guess, Austronesian includes many languages spoken in Southeast Asia and Polynesia, as well as Micronesia and Melanesia. Surprisingly, Malagasy, the official language of the nation of Madagascar, is part of the Austronesian family, despite its location thousands of miles away from core area of Austronesian speakers. Also, the natives of Easter Island, in the far eastern Pacific Ocean, speak an Austronesian language. This testifies to the Austronesians' skill in making long-distance ocean voyages. Anthropologists believe that Austronesian speakers began migrating from their homeland in Southeast Asia about 3,000 or 4,000 years ago, and went on to settle almost all of the Pacific islands.
Despite the huge geographical expanse they occupy, the Austronesian languages are remarkably similar. Some of the most important languages in this family are Indonesian, Malay, Javanese, Sundanese, Tagalog, Samoan, Fijian, Maori and Hawaiian. Unfortunately, there are only a few thousand people who speak Hawaiian today, but English speakers in Hawaii use a large number of Hawaiian words in their daily conversation, and are familiar with dozens of other Hawaiian words used in place names. For example, Ala Moana ( Ocean Road) and Kailua ( Two Seas).
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