We slide to South east asia and polynesia todaaaaayy.. Who’s excited?



The Austroasiatic languages also known as Mon–Khmer, are a large language family of Mainland Southeast Asia, also scattered throughout parts of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and southern China. There are around 117 million speakers of Austroasiatic languages. Of these languages, only Vietnamese, Khmer and Mon have a long-established recorded history and only Vietnamese and Khmer have official status as modern national languages (in Vietnam and Cambodia, respectively). In Myanmar, the Wa language is the de facto official language of Wa State. Santali is recognized as a regional language of India. The rest of the languages are spoken by minority groups and have no official status.

Austroasiatic languages have a disjunct distribution across Southeast Asia and parts of India, Bangladesh, Nepal and East Asia, separated by regions where other languages are spoken. They appear to be the extant autochthonous languages of Southeast Asia (excluding the Andaman Islands), with the neighboring Indo-Aryan, Kra–Dai, Hmong-Mien, Dravidian, Austronesian, and Sino-Tibetan languages being the result of later migrations. (source : here)

Peiros 2004

Ethnologue divides the Austro-Asiatic language family into two main branches:

  • Mon-Khmer (147 languages)
    The Mon-Khmer languages are indigenous to Indo-China. For more than two millennia, these languages were the lingua francas of Southeast Asia. They are still spoken across China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, and India. The most significant Mon-Khmer languages are Khmer, with 7 million speakers, and Vietnamese, with 68 million speakers.
  • Munda (22 languages)
    The Munda languages are spoken by about 9 million people in the hilly and forested regions of eastern India and Bangladesh. Their origins are not known, though it is generally thought that, with a few exceptions, they are indigenous to eastern India. The most significant Munda languages are Santali, with close to 6 million speakers; Ho, with over 1 million speakers; Mundari, with over 2 million speakers; and Korku, with close to 500,000 speakers. (source : here)

Linguists traditionally recognize two primary divisions of Austroasiatic: the Mon–Khmer languages of Southeast Asia, Northeast India and the Nicobar Islands, and the Munda languages of East and Central India and parts of Bangladesh, parts of Nepal. However, no evidence for this classification has ever been published.

In addition, there are suggestions that additional branches of Austroasiatic might be preserved in substrata of Acehnese in Sumatra (Diffloth), the Chamic languages of Vietnam, and the Land Dayak languages of Borneo (Adelaar 1995).

Diffloth compares reconstructions of various clades, and attempts to classify them based on shared innovations, though like other classifications the evidence has not been published. As a schematic, we have:

  • Munda languages (India)
    • Koraput: 7 languagesCore Munda languages
      • Kharian–Juang: 2 languages
      • North Munda languages
        Kherwarian: 12 languages
  • Khasi–Khmuic languages (Northern Mon–Khmer)
    • Khasian: 3 languages of north eastern India and adjacent region of BangladeshPalaungo-Khmuic languages
      • Khmuic: 13 languages of Laos and Thailand
        Palaungo-Pakanic languages
        Pakanic or Palyu: 4 or 5 languages of southern China and Vietnam
        Palaungic: 21 languages of Burma, southern China, and Thailand
  • Nuclear Mon–Khmer languages
    • Khmero-Vietic languages (Eastern Mon–Khmer)
      • Vieto-Katuic languages 
        Vietic: 10 languages of Vietnam and Laos, including the Vietnamese language, which has the most speakers of any Austroasiatic language.
        Katuic: 19 languages of Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. Khmero-Bahnaric languages
        • Bahnaric: 40 languages of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
        • Khmeric languages
          The Khmer dialects of Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam.Pearic: 6 languages of Cambodia.
  • Nico-Monic languages (Southern Mon–Khmer)
    • Nicobarese: 6 languages of the Nicobar Islands, a territory of India.
    • Asli-Monic languages
      Aslian: 19 languages of peninsular Malaysia and Thailand.
      Monic: 2 languages, the Mon language of Burma and the Nyahkur language of Thailand.


The Austronesian languages are a language family widely spoken throughout Maritime Southeast Asia, Madagascar and the islands of the Pacific Ocean. There are also a few speakers in continental Asia.

They are spoken by about 386 million people (4.9%). This makes it the fifth-largest language family by number of speakers. Major Austronesian languages include Malay (Indonesian and Malaysian), Javanese, and Filipino (Tagalog). The family contains 1,257 languages, which is the second most of any language family.

In 1706, the Dutch scholar Adriaan Reland first observed similarities between the languages spoken in the Malay Archipelago and the Pacific Ocean. In the 19th century, researchers (e.g. Wilhelm von Humboldt, Herman van der Tuuk) started to apply the comparative method to the Austronesian languages. The first extensive study on the history of the sound system was made by the German linguist Otto Dempwolff. It also included a reconstruction of the Proto-Austronesian lexicon. The term Austronesian itself was coined by Wilhelm Schmidt. The word is derived from the German austronesisch, which is based on Latinauster “south wind” and Greekνῆσος “island”. The family is aptly named, because most Austronesian languages are spoken on islands. Only a few languages, such as Malay and the Chamic languages, are indigenous to mainland Asia. Many Austronesian languages have very few speakers. However, the major Austronesian languages are spoken by tens of millions of people. For example, Malay is spoken by 250 million people. This makes it the 8th most spoken language in the world. Approximately twenty Austronesian languages are official in their respective countries.



The term Formosan language is not to be understood as representing a subgroup defined by exclusively shared innovations. Rather, it is a collective term for a highly diverse collection of languages, most of which share broad typological similarities with languages in the Philippines and some other areas (such as Madagascar). The Yami language, which is spoken on Lan-yü (Botel Tobago) island off the southeastern coast of Taiwan, forms a subgroup with Ivatan and Itbayaten in the northern Philippines. The other 14 surviving aboriginal languages of Taiwan may fall into as many as six primary branches of the language family, each one coordinate with the entire Malayo-Polynesian branch. Under such circumstances very small subgroups or even single languages provide an independent line of evidence for the nature of Proto-Austronesian that is theoretically equivalent to the entire Malayo-Polynesian branch of some 1,180 member languages. Among the best-described Formosan languages are Atayal(spoken in the northern mountains), Amis (spoken along the narrow east coast), and Paiwan (spoken near the southern tip of the island); only superficial descriptions are available for most of the other Formosan languages.

Western Malayo-Polynesian (WMP)

Although Western Malayo-Polynesian is a convenient cover term for the Austronesian languages of the Philippines, western Indonesia (Borneo, Sumatra, Java-Bali-Lombok, Sulawesi), mainland Southeast Asia, Madagascar, and at least Chamorro and Palauan in western Micronesia, it is in effect a catchall category for the Malayo-Polynesian languages that do not exhibit any of the innovations characteristic of Central-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian and may very well contain several primary branches of Malayo-Polynesian. As mentioned previously, some of the largest and best-known Austronesian languages—including Ilokano, Tagalog, Cebuano, Malay, Acehnese, Toba Batak, Minangkabau, Sundanese, Javanese, Balinese, Buginese, Makasarese, and Malagasy—are Western Malayo-Polynesian.

Central Malayo-Polynesian (CMP)

The Central Malayo-Polynesian languages are found throughout much of eastern Indonesia, including the Lesser Sunda Islands from Sumbawa through Timor, and most of the Moluccas. Many of the changes that define this linguistic group cover most of the languages but do not reach the geographic extremes, and the group has therefore been questioned by some scholars. Few of the languages are large or well-known, but those for which fuller descriptions are available include Manggarai and Ngadha, spoken on the island of Flores; Roti, spoken on the island of the same name; Tetum, spoken on the island of Timor; and Buruese, spoken on the island of Buru in the central Moluccas.

South Halmahera–West New Guinea (SHWNG)

This small group of Austronesian languages is found in the northern Moluccan island of Halmahera and in the Doberai Peninsula (also called Vogelkop or Bird’s Head) of western New Guinea. Preliminary descriptions exist only for Buli of Halmahera and Numfor-Biak and Waropen of western New Guinea; most of the languages are known only from short word lists.

Oceanic (OC)

The Oceanic subgroup is the largest and best-defined of all major subgroups in Austronesian. It includes all the languages of Polynesia, all the languages of Micronesia (except Palauan and Chamorro), and all the Austronesian languages of Melanesia east of the Mamberamo River in Indonesian New Guinea. Some of the better-known Oceanic languages are Motu of southeastern New Guinea, Tolai of New Britain, Sa’a of the southeastern Solomons, Mota of the Banks Islands in northern Vanuatu, Chuukese (Trukese) of Micronesia, Fijian, and many Polynesian languages, including Tongan, Samoan, Tahitian, Maori, and Hawaiian. Yapese, long considered unplaceable, now appears to be Oceanic, although its place within Oceanic remains obscure.


Philippine languages

One of several identifiable lower-level units within these major subgroups is the Philippine group within Western Malayo-Polynesian. It consists of Yami, spoken on Lan-yü (Botel Tobago) island off the southeastern coast of Taiwan; almost all the languages of the Philippine Islands; and the Sangiric, Minahasan, and Gorontalic languages of northern Sulawesi in central Indonesia. The Samalan dialects—spoken by the Sama-Bajau, the so-called sea gypsies in the Sulu Archipelago, and elsewhere in the Philippines—do not appear to belong to the Philippine group, and their exact linguistic position within the Austronesian family remains to be determined. Although the term Philippine language or Philippine-type language has been applied to such languages as Chamorro of the Mariana Islands or the languages of Sabah in northern Borneo, this label is typological rather than genetic.

Polynesian languages

Perhaps the best-known lower-level subgroup of Austronesian languages is Polynesian, which is remarkable for its wide geographic spread yet close relationship. The “Polynesian triangle,” defined by Hawaii, Easter Island, and New Zealand, encloses Polynesia proper, an area about twice the size of the continental United States. In addition, some 18 Polynesian-speaking societies, the above-mentioned Polynesian Outliers, are found in Micronesia and Melanesia.

The Polynesian languages generally are divided into two branches, Tongic (Tongan and Niue) and Nuclear Polynesian (the rest). Nuclear Polynesian in turn contains Samoic-Outlier and Eastern Polynesian. Maori and Hawaiian, two Eastern Polynesian languages that are separated by some 5,000 miles of sea, appear to be about as closely related as Dutch and German. The closest external relatives of the Polynesian languages are Fijian and Rotuman, a non-Polynesian language spoken by a physically Polynesian population on the small volcanic island of Rotuma northwest of the main Fijian island of Viti Levu; together with Polynesian, Fijian and Rotuman form a Central Pacific group. A number of proposals have been made regarding the immediate relationships of the Central Pacific languages; the majority of these suggest a grouping of Central Pacific with certain languages in central and northern Vanuatu, but these proposals remain controversial.

Nuclear Micronesian

Most of the languages of Micronesia are Oceanic, and, with the possible exception of Nauruan, which is still poorly described, they form a fairly close-knit subgroup that is often called Nuclear Micronesian. Palauan, Chamorro (Mariana Islands), and Yapese (western Micronesia) are not Nuclear Micronesian languages; the former two appear to be products of quite distinct migrations out of Indonesia or the Philippines, and, while Yapese probably is Oceanic, it has a complex history of borrowing and does not readily seem to form a subgroup with any other language.

Aberrant languages

Yapese is one of several problematic languages that can be shown to be Austronesian but that share little vocabulary with more typical languages. Other languages of this category are Enggano, spoken on a small island of the same name situated off the southwest coast of Sumatra, and a number of Melanesian languages. In the most extreme cases the classification of a language as Austronesian or non-Austronesian has shifted back and forth repeatedly, as with the Maisin language of southeastern Papua New Guinea (now generally regarded as an Austronesian language with heavy contact influence from Papuan languages). Other controversial or aberrant languages are Arove, Lamogai, and Kaulong of New Britain, Ririo and some other languages of the western Solomons, Asumboa of the Santa Cruz archipelago, Aneityum and some other languages of southern Vanuatu, several languages of New Caledonia, and Nengone and Dehu of the Loyalty Islands in southern Melanesia. Atayal of northern Taiwan is an example of a language once considered to be highly aberrant in vocabulary, but it is much less distinctive now that researchers have found that the Squliq dialect (which was chosen as representative of Atayal) exhibits idiosyncratic changes owing to a historical form of “speech disguise” characteristic of men’s speech. This feature is still preserved in the Mayrinax dialect of the Cʔuliʔ dialect cluster.

(source : here and here)

(to be continued)


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