The Khasian Languages
Classification, Reconstruction, and Comparative Lexicon
Khasian is group of Austroasiatic languages spoken by more than a million people in Meghalaya State of Northeast India and various smaller communities in neighboring lowland areas. Its closest linguistic relatives are the Palaungic languages of Myanmar (and further east), indicating that Meghalaya was settled by migrants from Southeast Asia sometime before the Common Era. The most well known language in the group is Standard Khasi, which has official status and is used widely as a regional lingua franca. As Austroasiatic branches go, Khasian is one of least diverse; the present work recognizes four other languages—Pnar, Lyngngam, Maram, and War—which are often erroneously regarded as Khasi dialects.
This book presents the first monograph length reconstruction of proto-Khasian lexicon and phonology, plus some discussion of historical morphology and classification. While Standard Khasi remains an important witness for historical studies due to the ready availability of dictionaries and texts, it is clear that other speech varieties preserve many archaisms and important clues to unlocking the history of the branch. This study draws upon recent field work by local and international scholars, recent dissertations, as well as previous scholarship on Khasi, and presents a comparative vocabulary of 912 proto-Khasian reconstructions, plus 154 proto-Pnar-Khasi-Lyngngam forms. While there are many data gaps and unanswered questions, it is hoped that the framework offered here establishes a firm basis for Khasian historical-linguistic studies, and will stimulate robust discussion and further original contributions to the field.
Dr Paul Sidwell graduated with a PhD in Linguistics from Melbourne University in 1999, and subsequently held appointments with the Max Planck Institute (Leipzig), the Center for Research in Computational Linguistics (Bangkok) and the Australian National University (Canberra). His principle research focus is on the comparative reconstruction of Austroasiatic history and its wider implications for Mainland Southeast Asia and beyond. Since 2016 Paul has been a partner in the Canberra based consulting firm Language Intelligence, offering applied research and analysis to assist defense and law enforcement.
ISBN 9783862889143 (Hardbound). Languages of the World 58. 216pp. 2018.