Southeast Asian languages

Introduction

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 languages, Sino-Tibetan languages, 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 Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Language and Linguistics