|South and Southeast Asia|
|Linguistic classification:||One of the world's primary language families|
The Austroasiatic languages, in recent classifications synonymous with Mon–Khmer, are a large language family of continental Southeast Asia, also scattered throughout India, Bangladesh, Nepal and the southern border of China. The name Austroasiatic comes from the Latin words for "south" and "Asia", hence "South Asia". Of these languages, only Vietnamese, Khmer, and Mon have a long-established recorded history, and only Vietnamese and Khmer have official status as modern national languages (in Vietnam and Cambodia, respectively). On the subnational level, Khasi has official status in Meghalaya while Santali and Mundari are official languages of Jharkhand. In Myanmar, the Wa language is the de facto official language of Wa State. The rest of the languages are spoken by minority groups and have no official status.
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) while another has abandoned Mon–Khmer as a taxon altogether, making it synonymous with the larger family.
Austroasiatic languages have a disjunct distribution across India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Southeast Asia, separated by regions where other languages are spoken. They appear to be the autochthonous languages of Southeast Asia, with the neighboring Indo-Aryan, Tai–Kadai, Dravidian, Austronesian, and Sino-Tibetan languages being the result of later migrations.
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. 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. Vietnamese has been so heavily influenced by Chinese that its original Austroasiatic phonological quality is obscured and now resembles that of South Chinese languages, whereas Khmer, which had more influence from Sanskrit, has retained a more typically Austroasiatic structure.
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.
Paul Sidwell (2005) reconstructs the consonant inventory of Proto-Mon–Khmer as follows:
This is identical to earlier reconstructions except for *ʄ. *ʄ 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.
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).
Sidwell (2009, 2011)
Paul 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. 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 |
Previously existent branches
- Pre-Chamic languages (the languages of coastal Vietnam prior to the Chamic migrations). Chamic has various Austroasiatic loanwords that cannot be clearly traced to existing Austroasiatic branches (Sidwell 2006).
- Acehnese substratum (Sidwell 2006). Acehnese has many basic words that are of Austroasiatic origin, suggesting that either Austronesian speakers have absorbed earlier Austroasiatic residents in northern Sumatra, or that words might have been borrowed from Austroasiatic languages in southern Vietnam — or perhaps a combination of both.
- Bornean substrate languages (Blench 2010). Blench cites Austroasiatic-origin words in modern-day Bornean branches such as Land Dayak (Bidayuh, Dayak Bakatiq, etc.), Dusunic (Central Dusun, Visayan, etc.), Kayan, and Kenyah, noting especially resemblances with Aslian. As further evidence for his proposal, Blench also cites ethnographic evidence such as musical instruments in Borneo shared in common with Austroasiatic-speaking groups in mainland Southeast Asia.
- Lepcha substratum ("Rongic"). Many words of Austroasiatic origin have been noticed in Lepcha, suggesting a Sino-Tibetan superstrate laid over an Austroasiatic substrate. Blench (2013) calls this branch "Rongic" based on the Lepcha autonym Róng.
Other languages with proposed Austroasiatic substrata are:
- Jiamao, based on evidence from the register system of Jiamao, a Hlai language (Thurgood 1992). Jiamao is known for its highly aberrant vocabulary.
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- |
Or in more detail,
- Munda languages (India)
- Koraput: 7 languages
- Core Munda languages
- Kharian–Juang: 2 languages
- North Munda languages
- Kherwarian: 12 languages
- Khasi–Khmuic languages (Northern Mon–Khmer)
- Khasian: 3 languages of eastern India and Bangladesh
- Palaungo-Khmuic languages
- Khmuic: 13 languages of Laos and Thailand
- Nuclear Mon–Khmer languages
- Khmero-Vietic languages (Eastern Mon–Khmer)
- Nico-Monic languages (Southern Mon–Khmer)
This family tree is consistent with recent studies of migration of Y-Chromosomal haplogroup O2a1-M95. However, the dates obtained from by Zhivotovsky method DNA studies are several times older than that given by linguists. The route map of the people with haplogroup O2a1-M95, speaking this language can be seen in this link. Other geneticists criticise the Zhivotovsky method.
Ilia Peiros (2004)
Peiros is a lexicostatistic classification, based on percentages of shared vocabulary. This means that languages can appear to be more distantly related than they actually are 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.
- North Munda
- South Munda
- Koraput Munda
- North Munda
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. The following are examples of past-used alphabets or current alphabets of Austroasiatic languages.
- Chữ Nôm
- Khmer alphabet
- Mon script
- Ol Chiki alphabet (Santali alphabet)
- Sorang Sompeng alphabet (Sora alphabet)
- Varang Kshiti (Ho alphabet)
- Khom script (used for a short period in the early 20th century for indigenous languages in Laos)
According to Chaubey et al. (2010), "AA speakers in India today are derived from dispersal from Southeast Asia, followed by extensive sex-specific admixture with local Indian populations." According to Riccio et al. (2011), the Munda people are likely descended from Austroasiatic migrants from southeast Asia. According to Zhang et al. (2015), Austroasiatic (male) migrations from southeast Asia into India took place after the last Glacial maximum, circa 10,000 years ago.
- See also:
* Dienekes Anthropology Blog, Origin of Indian Austroasiatic speakers
* Razib Khan (2010), Sons of the conquerors: the story of India?
* Razib Khan (2013), Phylogenetics implies Austro-Asiatic are intrusive to India
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Austroasiatic". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- Sometimes also as Austro-Asiatic or Austroasian.
- Bradley (2012) notes, MK in the wider sense including the Munda languages of eastern South Asia is also known as Austroasiatic.
- Diffloth 2005
- Sidwell 2009
- Sidwell, Paul, and Roger Blench. 2011. "The Austroasiatic Urheimat: the Southeastern Riverine Hypothesis." Enfield, N.J. (ed.) Dynamics of Human Diversity, 317-345. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. http://rogerblench.info/Archaeology/SE%20Asia/SR09/Sidwell%20Blench%20offprint.pdf
- DIPFLOTH, Gerard. "Proto-Austroasiatic creaky voice." (1989).
- Roger Blench, 2009. Are there four additional unrecognised branches of Austroasiatic? Presentation at ICAAL-4, Bangkok, 29–30 October. Summarized in Sidwell and Blench (2011).
- Blench, Roger. 2009. "Are there four additional unrecognised branches of Austroasiatic?."
- Sidwell, Paul. 2006. "Dating the Separation of Acehnese and Chamic By Etymological Analysis of the Aceh-Chamic Lexicon Archived 5 June 2013 at WebCite." In The Mon-Khmer Studies Journal, 36: 187-206.
- Blench, Roger. 2010. "Was there an Austroasiatic Presence in Island Southeast Asia prior to the Austronesian Expansion?" In Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association, Vol. 30.
- Blench, Roger. 2013. Rongic: a vanished branch of Austroasiatic. m.s.
- Thurgood, Graham. 1992. The aberrancy of the Jiamao dialect of Hlai: speculation on its origins and history. In Ratliff, Martha S. and Schiller, E. (eds.), Papers from the First Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society, 417-433. Arizona State University, Program for Southeast Asian Studies.
- Sidwell (2005) casts doubt on Diffloth's Vieto-Katuic hypothesis, saying that the evidence is ambiguous, and that it is not clear where Katuic belongs in the family.
- Kumar, Vikrant et al., Y-chromosome evidence suggests a common paternal heritage of Austroasiatic populations, BMC Evol Biol. 2007, 7: 47.
- "Figure". www.biomedcentral.com. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-7-47. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
- "Vietnamese Chu Nom script". Omniglot.com. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
- "Khmer/Cambodian alphabet, pronunciation and language". Omniglot.com. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
- "Santali alphabet, pronunciation and language". Omniglot.com. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
- "Sorang Sompeng script". Omniglot.com. 18 June 1936. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
- "Varang Kshiti alphabet and Ho language". Omniglot.com. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
- Chaubey 2010.
- Riccio et al. (2011), The Austroasiatic Munda population from India and Its enigmatic origin: a HLA diversity study.
- The Language Gulper, Austroasiatic Languages
- Zhang 2015.
- 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.
- Chaubey; et al. (2011), "Population Genetic Structure in Indian Austroasiatic Speakers: The Role of Landscape Barriers and Sex-Specific Admixture", Mol Biol Evol (2011) 28 (2): 1013-1024, doi:10.1093/molbev/msq288
- 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)
- Jenny, Mathias and Paul Sidwell, eds (2015). The Handbook of Austroasiatic Languages. Leiden: Brill.
- 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.).
- Zhang; et al. (2015), "Y-chromosome diversity suggests southern origin and Paleolithic backwave migration of Austro-Asiatic speakers from eastern Asia to the Indian subcontinent", Nature Scientific Reports, 5: 1548, doi:10.1038/srep15486
Mann, Noel, Wendy Smith and Eva Ujlakyova. 2009. Linguistic clusters of Mainland Southeast Asia: an overview of the language families. Chiang Mai: Payap University.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Austroasiatic languages.|
- Swadesh lists for Austro-Asiatic languages (from Wiktionary's wikt:Appendix:Swadesh lists Swadesh-list appendix)
- Austro-Asiatic at the Linguist List MultiTree Project (not functional as of 2014): Genealogical trees attributed to Sebeok 1942, Pinnow 1959, Diffloth 2005, and Matisoff 2006
- Mon–Khmer.com: Lectures by Paul Sidwell
- Mon–Khmer Languages Project at SEAlang
- http://projekt.ht.lu.se/rwaai RWAAI (Repository and Workspace for Austroasiatic Intangible Heritage)
- http://hdl.handle.net/10050/00-0000-0000-0003-66A4-2@view RWAAI Digital Archive