Classification of Southeast Asian languages

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There have been various classification schemes for Southeast Asian languages (see the articles for the respective language families).

Language families edit

The five established major language families are:

Isolates and small families edit

A number of language groups in Arunachal Pradesh traditionally considered to be Sino-Tibetan (Tibeto-Burman) may in fact constitute independent language families or isolates (Roger Blench 2011). (See Language isolates and independent language families in Arunachal.)

Macrofamilies edit

The Dené–Caucasian proposal

Several macrofamily schemes have been proposed for linking multiple language families of Southeast Asia. None of these proposals is yet accepted by mainstream comparative linguistics, though research into higher-level relationships among these languages has gained some renewed scholarly interest over the last three decades; the various hypotheses are still under investigation, and the validity of each has yet to be resolved.[2]

  • Austro-Tai links the Austronesian and Kra–Dai languages. Several linguists, including Laurent Sagart, Stanley Starosta, Weera Ostapirat and Lawrence Reid,[3] accept or theorize a close relationship between these families, but the specifics of the relationship remain unclear. Multiple models of the internal branching of Austro-Tai have been put forward, and Austro-Tai has been incorporated as a subgroup within some larger macrofamily schemes, e.g. in Starosta's East Asian as well as in Sagart's model of Austronesian (see below), both of which regard Kra–Dai as a subfamily within Austronesian. A few versions of Austro-Tai have included Japonic and/or the isolate Ainu as well, though these have not been met with as much acceptance.
  • Miao–Dai (Kosaka 2002) is a hypothesis for a family including Miao–Yao (Hmong–Mien) and Kra–Dai.[4]
  • Sino-Austronesian (Sagart 2004, 2005) links Austro-Tai (Austronesian) with Sino-Tibetan (Tibeto-Burman).
  • Austric links all of the major language families of Southeast Asia apart from Sino-Tibetan. Several variants of the Austric hypothesis have been proposed since it took shape with Paul K. Benedict's proposal (1942). Some of these also incorporate Japonic, Korean and/or Ainu. One version called the "Greater Austric" hypothesis (Bengtson 1996) includes Ainu as well as Nihali, a language isolate of India.[5]
    • The "Proto-Asian hypothesis" or "Austro-Asian" (Larish 2006) argues for lexical evidence of relationship among all of the languages typically included in Austric as well as Japanese–Korean and Sino-Tibetan.[6]
  • East Asian (Starosta 2005) covers all of these families (except Japonic, Koreanic, Ainu and Nihali) as well as Sino-Tibetan. It posits Austronesian (including Kra–Dai) as the most divergent branch, coordinate with a primary branch Sino-Tibetan–Yangzian which links Sino-Tibetan with a clade called Yangzian (or Yangtzean), named for the Yangtze river, which includes Austroasiatic and Hmong–Mien.
  • In a different direction, the Dené–Caucasian hypothesis links Sino-Tibetan to languages of Siberia (Dene–Yeniseian) and the Caucasus (North Caucasian or Macro-Caucasian). On the basis of lexicostatistics, Sergei Starostin additionally hypothesized an even larger Dené–Daic macrofamily which incorporates both Dené–Caucasian and Austric as primary branches.

Genetic similarities between the peoples of East and Southeast Asia have led some scholars such as George van Driem to speculate about "Haplogroup O languages".

Proto-languages edit

Comparison edit

The following table compares the phonemic inventories of various recently reconstructed proto-languages of Southeast Asia.

Comparison of Proto-languages
Proto-language Proto-Kra Proto-Tai Proto-Hlai Proto-S. Kra–Dai Proto-Austronesian Proto-Tibeto-Burman Proto-Mon–Khmer
Source Ostapirat (2000) Pittayaporn (2009)[7] Norquest (2007)[8] Norquest (2007)[8] Blust (2009)[9] Matisoff (2003)[10] Shorto (2006)[11]
Consonants 32 33–36 32 28–29 25 23 21
Vowels 6 7 4–5 5–7 4 5–6 7
Diphthongs 4 5 1+ 4 2+ 3
Consonantal finals 7 10–11 6
Vowel length
No Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes

Maps of language families edit

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Blench, Roger. 2015. The Mijiic languages: distribution, dialects, wordlist and classification. m.s.
  2. ^ van Driem, George (2008). "To which language family does Chinese belong, or what's in a name?" (PDF). In Sanchez-Mazas, Alicia; Blench, Roger; Ross, Malcolm D.; Peiros, Ilia and Marie Lin, Eds. Past Human Migrations in East Asia: Matching Archaeology, Linguistics and Genetics. London and New York: Routledge: 219–253.
  3. ^ Reid, Lawrence A. (2006). "Austro-Tai Hypotheses". pp. 609–610 in Keith Brown (editor in chief), The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, 2nd edition.
  4. ^ Kosaka, Ryuichi (2002). "On the affiliation of Miao-Yao and Kadai: Can we posit the Miao-Dai family?" (PDF). Mon-Khmer Studies. 32: 71–100.
  5. ^ Bengtson, John (2010). "The "Greater Austric" Hypothesis" (PDF).
  6. ^ Larish, Michael D. 2006. Possible Proto-Asian Archaic Residue and the Statigraphy of Diffusional Cumulation in Austro-Asian Languages. Paper presented at the Tenth International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics, 17–20 January 2006, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, Philippines.
  7. ^ Pittayaporn, Pittayawat. 2009. The Phonology of Proto-Tai. Ph.D. dissertation. Department of Linguistics, Cornell University.
  8. ^ a b Norquest, Peter K. 2007. A Phonological Reconstruction of Proto-Hlai. Ph.D. dissertation. Tucson: Department of Anthropology, University of Arizona.
  9. ^ Blust, Robert A. 2009. The Austronesian Languages. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University. ISBN 0-85883-602-5, ISBN 978-0-85883-602-0.
  10. ^ Matisoff, James. 2003. Handbook of Proto-Tibeto-Burman: System and Philosophy of Sino-Tibetan Reconstruction. University of California publications in linguistics, v. 135. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  11. ^ Shorto, Harry L., et al. 2006. A Mon–Khmer Comparative Dictionary. Canberra: Australian National University. Pacific Linguistics. ISBN 0-85883-570-3.

Further reading edit

External links edit