Mon-Khmer languages

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Mon-Khmer languages

(mōn-kəmâr`), group of languages frequently considered as a subfamily of the Southeast Asian family of languages. See Southeast Asian languagesSoutheast Asian languages,
family of languages, sometimes also called Austroasiatic, spoken in SE Asia by about 80 million people. According to one school of thought, it has three subfamilies: the Mon-Khmer languages, the Munda languages, and the Annamese-Muong subfamily.
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Mon-Khmer Languages


related languages spoken on the Indochinese Peninsula, in southern China and northeastern India, and on the Nicobar Islands. The name is derived from two ancient literary languages, Khmer (texts known from the seventh century A.D.) and Mon (texts known from the tenth century A.D.). There are about 11 million speakers (1970, estimate). The Mon-Khmer languages are divided into four branches:

(1) Southeastern (in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and southern Burma): Khmer (the official language of Cambodia), Mon, Poar, Chong, Stieng, Mnong, Sre, Ma, Chrau, Bahnar, Brao, Chru, Kui, Katu, Souei, Bru, and Pacoh.

(2) Northeastern (in Laos, Thailand, Burma, and southern China): Palaung, Wa, Kawa, Lawa, Rien, Benlun, Danaw, Khmu, and Lamet.

(3) Northwestern (Assam State in India): Khasi.

(4) Southwestern (Nicobar Islands): Nicobarese and its numerous dialects.

The Mon-Khmer languages belong to the Austroasiatic language family, which also includes the Munda languages of India, Vietnamese, and several languages of the Malay Peninsula (Semang and Senoi). Sometimes Mon-Khmer refers only to the languages of the southeastern branch.

The Mon-Khmer languages are characterized by a rich vowel system, an abundance of diphthongs, and relatively few consonants (there are no affricates and few fricatives), limited possibilities for syllable formation (no more than two consonants at the beginning of a syllable and only one consonant at the end of a syllable), and the presence of two special types of syllable, strong (independent) and weak (dependent). With rare exception, the Mon-Khmer languages have phonological tones. Word formation is primarily affixal (prefixes and infixes). Semiaffixation and compounding play a large role in many of the modern languages. The structure of the languages is of the isolating type. Grammatical features of the word are expressed analytically. Sentence relations are expressed by means of word order and special auxiliary words.


Gorgoniev, lu. A. Grammatika kkhmerskogo iazyka. Moscow, 1966.
Schmidt, W. Die Mon-Khmer Volker, ein Bindeglied zwischen Völkern Zentralasiens und Austronesiens. Braunschweig, 1906.
Maspero, H. “Les Langues mon-khmer.” In Les Languesdu monde, new ed. Paris, 1952.
Thomas, D. D., and R. K. Headley. “More on Mon-Khmer Subgroupings.” Lingua, 1970, vol. 25, pp. 398–418.