Classifying the Austroasiatic languages: history and state of the art
Australian National University
The Austroasiatic language phylum spans the breadth of South and Southeast Asia, with more than 150 languages over a dozen branches. Some are spoken by villages of just a few dozen people, while others have millions of speakers such as the national languages Cambodian and Vietnamese. Historically much of the Austroasiatic region has been divided and overlain by unrelated language families, creating a vast zone of ethnolinguistic contact and diversity. This creates a special imperative for us to turn to comparative linguistics to solves great issues of regional (pre)history that other disciplines cannot address.
Yet, despite more than a century of comparative Austroasiatic studies, scholars have yet to present an explicitly justified internal genetic classification of the phylum upon which specialists can agree. The text is divided into two main parts; the first charts the emergence of the Austroasiatic hypothesis and its various guises, and reviews much of the literature which has addressed how constituent branches may (or may not) relate to each other, while the second part looks at each branch in detail, examining the history of scholarship and summarizing the state of the art. Many relevant maps and diagrams are reproduced, including some colour plates.
Table of contents
2 The Austroasiatic Phylum
2.1 1850–1950: the dawn of a new family
2.2 1900–1950: The neogrammarians versus the diffusionists
2.2.1 A new neogrammarian perspective
2.2.2 Reception and influence of Schmidt’s proposals
2.2.3 The question of Vietnamese
2.2.4 Appeal to authority
2.3 1951–present: the age of lexicostatistics
2.3.1 The bridging period
2.3.2 Lexicostatistics makes its mark
2.3.3 Reception and subsequent influence of Thomas and Headley’s analyses
2.3.4 The question of more-detailed subgrouping
2.3.5 Recent analyses
2.4 Concluding remarks: the Austroasiatic phylum and homeland
3 Austroasiatic Branches
3.7.2 Nyah Kur
ISBN 9783929075670 (Hardcover). LINCOM Studies in Asian Linguistics 76. 175pp. 2009.