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Mon–Khmer languages

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Mon–Khmer languages

Austroasiatic
Mon–Khmer
Geographic
distribution:
South and Southeast Asia
Linguistic classification: One of the world's major language families
Proto-language: Proto-Mon–Khmer
Subdivisions:
Ethnologue code: ISO 639-5: aav

Austroasiatic languages

The Austroasiatic languages,[1] in recent classifications synonymous with Mon–Khmer,[2] are a large language family of continental Southeast Asia, also scattered throughout India, Bangladesh, and the southern border of China. The name Austroasiatic comes from the Latin words for "south" and "Asia", hence "South Asia". Among these languages, only Khmer, Vietnamese, and Mon have a long-established recorded history, and only Vietnamese and Khmer have official status (in Vietnam and Cambodia, respectively). The rest of the languages are spoken by minority groups. Ethnologue identifies 168 Austroasiatic languages. These form thirteen established families (plus perhaps Shompen, which is poorly attested, as a fourteenth), which have traditionally been grouped into two, as Mon–Khmer and Munda. However, one recent classification posits three groups (Munda, Nuclear Mon-Khmer and Khasi-Khmuic)[3] while another has abandoned Mon–Khmer as a taxon altogether, making it synonymous with the larger family.[4]

Austroasiatic languages have a disjunct distribution across India, Bangladesh and Southeast Asia, separated by regions where other languages are spoken. They appear to be the autochthonous languages of Southeast Asia, with the neighboring Indic, Tai, Dravidian, Austronesian, and Tibeto-Burman languages being the result of later migrations (Sidwell & Blench, 2011). Genetic studies of representatives from all branches of Austroasiatic indicate the ancestors of Austroasiatic speakers originated in present-day India and migrated into Southeast Asia from the Brahmaputra River Valley.[5]

Typology

The Austroasiatic languages are well known for having a "sesquisyllabic" pattern, with basic nouns and verbs consisting of a reduced minor syllable plus a full syllable. Many of them also have infixes. The Austroasiatic languages are further characterized as having unusually large vowel inventories and employing some sort of register contrast, either between modal (normal) voice and breathy (lax) voice or between modal voice and creaky voice.[6] Languages in the Pearic branch and some in the Vietic branch can have a three- or even four-way voicing contrast. However, some Austroasiatic languages have lost the register contrast by evolving more diphthongs or in a few cases, such as Vietnamese, tonogenesis.

Proto-language

Much work has been done on the reconstruction of Proto-Mon–Khmer in Harry L. Shorto's Mon–Khmer Comparative Dictionary. Little work has been done on the Munda languages, which are not well documented; with their demotion from a primary branch, Proto-Mon–Khmer becomes synonymous with Proto-Austroasiatic.

Sidwell (2005) reconstructs the consonant inventory of Proto-Mon–Khmer as follows:

*p *t *c *k
*b *d
*m *n
*w *l, *r *j
*s *h

This is identical to earlier reconstructions except for . is better preserved in the Katuic languages, which Sidwell has specialized in. Sidwell (2011) suggests that the likely homeland of Austroasiatic is the middle Mekong, in the area of the Bahnaric and Katuic languages (approximately where modern Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia come together), and that the family is not as old as frequently assumed, dating to perhaps 2000 BCE.[7]

Classification

Linguists traditionally recognize two primary divisions of Austroasiatic: the Mon–Khmer languages of Southeast Asia, Northeast India and the Nicobar Islands, and the Munda languages of East and Central India and parts of Bangladesh. However, no evidence for this classification has ever been published.

Each of the families that is written in boldface type below is accepted as a valid clade. By contrast, the relationships between these families within Austroasiatic is debated. In addition to the traditional classification, two recent proposals are given, neither of which accept traditional "Mon–Khmer" as a valid unit. However, little of the data used for competing classifications has ever been published, and therefore cannot be evaluated by peer review.

In addition, there are suggestions that additional branches of Austroasiatic might be preserved in substrata of Acehnese in Sumatra (Diffloth), the Chamic languages of Vietnam, and the Land Dayak languages of Borneo (Adelaar 1995).[8]

Sidwell (2009, 2011)

Sidwell (2009a), in a lexicostatistical comparison of 36 languages which are well-known enough to exclude loan words, finds little evidence for internal branching, though he did find an area of increased contact between the Bahnaric and Katuic languages, such that languages of all branches apart from the geographically distant Munda and Nicobarese show greater similarity to Bahnaric and Katuic the closer they are to those branches, without any noticeable innovations common to Bahnaric and Katuic. He therefore takes the conservative view that the thirteen branches of Austroasiatic should be treated as equidistant on current evidence. Sidwell & Blench (2011) discuss this proposal in more detail, and note that there is good evidence for a Khasi–Palaungic node, which could also possibly be closely related to Khmuic.[7] If this would the case, Sidwell & Blench suggest that Khasic may have been an early offshoot of Palaungic that had spread westward. Sidwell & Blench (2011) suggest Shompen as an additional branch, and believe that a Vieto-Katuic connection is worth investigating. In general, however, the family is thought to have diversified too quickly for a deeply nested structure to have developed, since Proto-Austroasiatic speakers are believed by Sidwell to have radiated out from the central Mekong River valley relatively quickly.

Austroasiatic 
= Mon–Khmer 

Munda


 Khasi–Palaungic 

Khasian



Palaungic




Khmuic



Pakanic



Vietic



Katuic



Bahnaric



Khmer



Pearic



Nicobarese



Aslian



Monic



?Shompen



Gérard Diffloth (2005)

Diffloth compares reconstructions of various clades, and attempts to classify them based on shared innovations, though like other classifications the evidence has not been published. As a schematic, we have:

Austro- 
Asiatic 
 Munda 


Remo



Savara





Kharian–Juang




Korku



Kherwarian





 Khasi– 
 Khmuic
 


Khmuic




Pakanic



Palaungic





Khasian



 (Nuclear) 
 Mon–Khmer
 



Vietic


?[9]

Katuic





Bahnaric




Khmer



Pearic







Nicobarese




Aslian



Monic






Or in more detail,

  • Koraput: 7 languages
  • Core Munda languages
  • Kharian–Juang: 2 languages
  • North Munda languages
Korku
Kherwarian: 12 languages
  • Khasian: 3 languages of eastern India and Bangladesh
  • Palaungo-Khmuic languages
  • Khmuic: 13 languages of Laos and Thailand
  • Palaungo-Pakanic languages
Pakanic or Palyu: 4 or 5 languages of southern China and Vietnam
Palaungic: 21 languages of Burma, southern China, and Thailand
  • Khmero-Vietic languages (Eastern Mon–Khmer)
  • Vieto-Katuic languages ?[9]
Vietic: 10 languages of Vietnam and Laos, including the Vietnamese language, which has the most speakers of any Austroasiatic language. These are the only Austroasiatic languages to have highly developed tone systems.
Katuic: 19 languages of Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand.
  • Khmero-Bahnaric languages
  • Bahnaric: 40 languages of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
  • Khmeric languages
The Khmer dialects of Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Pearic: 6 languages of Cambodia.
  • Nico-Monic languages (Southern Mon–Khmer)
  • Asli-Monic languages
Aslian: 19 languages of peninsular Malaysia and Thailand.
Monic: 2 languages, the Mon language of Burma and the Nyahkur language of Thailand.

This family tree is consistent with recent studies of migration of Y-Chromosomal haplogroup O2a1-M95. However, the dates obtained from DNA studies are several times older than that given by linguists.[10] The route map of the people with haplogroup O2a1-M95, speaking this language can be seen in this link.[11]

Ilia Peiros (2004)

Peiros is a lexicostatistic classification, based on percentages of shared vocabulary. This means that a language may appear to be more distantly related than it actually is due to language contact. Indeed, when Sidwell (2009a) replicated Peiros's study with languages known well enough to account for loans, he did not find the internal (branching) structure below.

Diffloth (1974)

Diffloth's widely cited original classification, now abandoned by Diffloth himself, is used in Encyclopædia Britannica and—except for the breakup of Southern Mon–Khmer—in Ethnologue.

Writing systems

Other than Latin-based alphabets, many Austroasiatic languages are written with the ancient Khmer alphabet, Thai alphabet and Lao alphabet. Vietnamese divergently had an indigenous script based on Chinese logographic writing. This has since been supplanted by the Latin alphabet in the 20th century.

See also

Notes

References

  • Adams, K. L. (1989). Systems of numeral classification in the Mon–Khmer, Nicobarese and Aslian subfamilies of Austroasiatic. Canberra, A.C.T., Australia: Dept. of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University. ISBN 0-85883-373-5
  • Bradley, David (2012). "Languages and Language Families in China", in Rint Sybesma (ed.), Encyclopedia of Chinese Language and Linguistics.
  • Chakrabarti, Byomkes. (1994). A Comparative Study of Santali and Bengali.
  • Diffloth, Gérard (2005). "The contribution of linguistic palaeontology and Austro-Asiatic". in Laurent Sagart, Roger Blench and Alicia Sanchez-Mazas, eds. The Peopling of East Asia: Putting Together Archaeology, Linguistics and Genetics. 77–80. London: Routledge Curzon. ISBN 0-415-32242-1
  • Filbeck, D. (1978). T'in: a historical study. Pacific linguistics, no. 49. Canberra: Dept. of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University. ISBN 0-85883-172-4
  • Hemeling, K. (1907). Die Nanking Kuanhua. (German language)
  • Peck, B. M., Comp. (1988). An Enumerative Bibliography of South Asian Language Dictionaries.
  • Peiros, Ilia. 1998. Comparative Linguistics in Southeast Asia. Pacific Linguistics Series C, No. 142. Canberra: Australian National University.
  • Shorto, Harry L. edited by Sidwell, Paul, Cooper, Doug and Bauer, Christian (2006). A Mon–Khmer comparative dictionary. Canberra: Australian National University. Pacific Linguistics. ISBN 0-85883-570-3
  • Shorto, H. L. Bibliographies of Mon–Khmer and Tai Linguistics. London oriental bibliographies, v. 2. London: Oxford University Press, 1963.
  • Sidwell, Paul (2005). "Proto-Katuic Phonology and the Sub-grouping of Mon–Khmer Languages". In Sidwell, ed., SEALSXV: papers from the 15th meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistic Society.
  • Sidwell, Paul (2009a). The Austroasiatic Central Riverine Hypothesis. Keynote address, SEALS, XIX.
  • Sidwell, Paul (2009b). Classifying the Austroasiatic languages: history and state of the art. LINCOM studies in Asian linguistics, 76. Munich: Lincom Europa.
  • Zide, Norman H., and Milton E. Barker. (1966) Studies in Comparative Austroasiatic Linguistics, The Hague: Mouton (Indo-Iranian monographs, v. 5.).

External links

Template:Austroasiatic languages

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