Southeast Asian languages

Southeast 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. There is considerable evidence but as yet no definite proof that these groups are derived from a single ancestor language, which is the essential requirement for classification in the same linguistic family.

The use of the term Southeast Asian languages in this article is based on linguistic considerations; however, the term is also employed by some scholars in a geographical sense to include three distinct language families of the region, namely, Malayo-Polynesian languagesMalayo-Polynesian languages
, sometimes also called Austronesian languages
, family of languages estimated at from 300 to 500 tongues and understood by approximately 300 million people in Madagascar; the Malay Peninsula; Indonesia and New Guinea; the Philippines;
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, Sino-Tibetan languagesSino-Tibetan languages,
family of languages spoken by over a billion people in central and SE Asia. This linguistic family is second only to the Indo-European stock in the number of its speakers.
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, and Mon-Khmer languages. A grouping together of the Malayo-Polynesian and Southeast Asian (or Austroasiatic) languages into a single Austric family has also been proposed on the basis of certain phonetic, lexical, and grammatical similarities, but this grouping has not yet been generally accepted.

The Mon-Khmer Subfamily

Languages of the Mon-Khmer subfamily include Cambodian (or Khmer), Mon (or Talaing), and a number of other languages, such as Cham of Cambodia and southern Vietnam, Semang and Sakai of the Malay Peninsula, Nicobarese of the Nicobar Islands, and Khasi of Assam in India. Grammatically, the Mon-Khmer languages make great use of affixes (prefixes, infixes, and suffixes). They are agglutinative in that different linguistic elements, each of which exists separately and has a fixed meaning, are often joined to form one word. Cambodian and Mon have their own scripts, which are descended from alphabets of India. Both are written from left to right.

The Munda Subfamily

The languages of the Munda subfamily are spoken in parts of N and central India and comprise more than 20 tongues, the most important of which is Santali. The Munda languages use affixes extensively and are agglutinative. There are two genders for nouns in most of the Munda tongues, animate and inanimate. Most Munda languages also have three numbers—singular, dual, and plural. Suffixes and particles placed after the noun are used to express such features as number and possession, which are often indicated in Indo-European tongues by case inflection.

The Annamese-Muong Subfamily

The Annamese-Muong subfamily is composed of Muong and Vietnamese (also called Annamese). Vietnamese is basically monosyllabic, but it has many words of two or more syllables. It is also tonal, with six tones that frequently help to distinguish homonyms. Vietnamese uses particles but has no prefixes and suffixes. Word order is very important for showing grammatical relationships since there is no inflection. The vocabulary has many loanwords from Chinese. An alphabet based on Roman letters and adapted for Vietnamese, as by adding diacriticals, is generally used today in place of the traditional Chinese-type writing of the past. The classification of Vietnamese is still disputed; some regard it as a Mon-Khmer tongue, others as a Tai (or Thai) language (see Sino-Tibetan languagesSino-Tibetan languages,
family of languages spoken by over a billion people in central and SE Asia. This linguistic family is second only to the Indo-European stock in the number of its speakers.
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), and still others as a language unrelated to any other known tongue.


See N. H. Zide, ed., Studies in Comparative Austroasiatic Linguistics (1966).

References in periodicals archive ?
In 2005, Ramos was conferred the title professor emeritus by the UH for her 'dynamic and productive leadership in the field of Southeast Asian languages as well as her development and promotion of the study and use of Filipino, an important symbol of her ethnic heritage.'
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It is now available worldwide on the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store with support for Southeast Asian languages such as Indonesian, Taglish, Thai, and Vietnamese.
Anyone who has ever painstakingly attempted to reconstruct multiple names for a single individual across the conventions of several Chinese dialects and Southeast Asian languages will find this gift to be remarkably convenient.
Working on a participatory research project with mushroom harvester groups in southeastern Oregon, I worked with others to conduct campground meetings in six different languages, including multiple southeast Asian languages, Spanish and English.
There are short, but excellent introductions to important texts like the Jinakalamalipakaranam (note that Miksic has simplified the numerous transliteration systems used for Southeast Asian languages, as well as Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese, Arabic, Mon, Khmer, etc., and has eliminated most diacritical marks).
Both the translation and the video production were complicated because of the four Southeast Asian languages involved.
Other contributions include those of Peter Zinoman who writes on Vietnamese Americans and Vietnamese Studies in America, Teri Shaffer Yamada who considers Southeast Asian American youth and the cultural misrepresentation of their heritage, and Tony Diller who ends the volume with "Heritage Learning of Southeast Asian Languages".
While these works are valuable, much new analysis has been done in the past twenty years, along with excellent work in Japanese and Southeast Asian languages. Poor editing of the book, which is filled with numerous typos and grammatical slips, compounds these problems.
In early March the service will be extended to cover registration for Southeast Asian languages and languages used on the Indian Subcontinent.

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