Austroasiatic Languages

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Austroasiatic Languages


a language family the major groups of which are the Mon-Khmer and Munda languages; the kinship between these groups—and hence the very existence of the family—cannot be considered to have been definitively established. The Mon-Khmer group includes the Khmer language in Cambodia, the Mon language in southern Burma, and the languages of several minor peoples living in Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand (Bahnar, Cham, Kui, So, and others); it is possible that the Vietnamese language and the closely related Muong dialects belong to the same group. Adjoining the Mon-Khmer group are the Khasi language of Assam (India) and the Palaung-Wa group, which includes the languages of Palaung, Riang, and Wa in Burma, K’awa in Yunnan (China), Khmu in northern Laos, and others. The languages of the most ancient population of Malacca—Semang, Senoi, and Nicobarese (Nicobar Islands)—form separate groups. The Munda languages are spoken in India, chiefly in the states of Bihar and Orissa; the most important of them is Santali. The Tiam language, which had once been considered an Austroasiatic language, actually belongs to the Indonesian group of the Austronesian family. It is possible that the Miao-Yao languages in southern China are related to the Austroasiatic languages, and a distant relation between the Austroasiatic and the Austronesian languages is also postulated. The Mon-Khmer, Palaung-Wa, and Khasi languages are mainly isolating in structure, with monosyllabic roots and the use of prefixes and infixes in word formation; the Munda languages are agglutinative, and suffixation is present. The Munda languages are spoken by more than 5.5 million people; the remaining Austroasiatic languages, not including Vietnamese, by about 8 million.


Schmidt, W. Die Mon-Khmer-Volker, ein Bindeglied zwischen Völkern Zentralasiens und Austronesiens. Braunschweig, 1906.
Sebeok, T. “An Examination of the Austroasiatic Language Family.” Language, 1942, vol. 18, pp. 206–17.
Pinnow, H.-J. Versuch einer historischen Lautlehre der Kharia-Sprache. Wiesbaden, 1959.
Studies in Comparative Austroasiatic Linguistics. The Hague, 1966.
Indo-Pacific Linguistic Studies, parts 1–2. Amsterdam, 1965.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
As in other Austroasiatic languages, we have many terms for odors, especially the unpleasant ones.
The Handbook of Austroasiatic Languages; 2 volume set
(8) Adelaar (1995) does propose a link between Austronesian languages of Borneo and Austroasiatic languages of the Malay Penensula, however, the evidence is restricted to only two words, 'to die', and 'to bathe' (although Penan has no such evidence, and reflects Proto-Malayo-Polynesian (PMP) *matay 'to die' and PKEN *endu?
It is tempting but rash to compare this ethnonym to the Sanskrit word nagara 'country', which appears in Malaysian Austroasiatic languages as nngeri' / lnggri' and Malay as negeri.
Austroasiatic Languages: Munda (Eastern India) and Mon-Khmer (NE India, mainland SE Asia, Malaysia, Nicobars):
No Austroasiatic languages are spoken in island Southeast Asia today, although we know from the Chamic languages of Vietnam and the Sa Huynh culture that contact was extensive between the mainland and the islands.
According to one hypothesis, Austroasiatic languages were originally spoken all over Southeast Asia, but were widely displaced first by immigrating Austronesians and later by Tai-speakers.
There appears to have been a rather sharp transition from the Hoabinhian to the Neolithic, with the change marked by the introduction of agriculture and Austroasiatic languages. (19) The Negritos adopted Austroasiatic languages, and so today both the Negri tos and the Senoi speak Austroasiatic languages in the subgroup Aslian, which has distant relationships with Mon and Khmer.
The Mon-Khmer language is in the family of Austroasiatic language phylum.