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Austroasiatic languages have a disjunct distribution across India and Southeast Asia, separated by regions where other languages are spoken. It is widely believed that the Austroasiatic languages are the autochthonous languages of Southeast Asia and eastern India, and that the other languages of the region, including the Indo European, Tai-Kadai, and Sino-Tibetan languages, are the result of later movements of people. (There are, for example, Austroasiatic words in the Tibeto-Burman languages of eastern Nepal.) Some linguists have attempted to prove that Austroasiatic languages are related to Austronesian languages, thus forming the Austric superfamily.
Linguists recognize two major divisions of Austroasiatic, the Mon-Khmer languages of Southeast Asia and the Munda languages of east-central and central India. The Ethnologue identifies 168 Austroasiatic languages, of which 147 are Mon-Khmer languages and 21 are Munda languages. The major subdivisions of the Austroasiatic family are listed below:
- North Munda languages (12 languages)
- South Munda languages (9 languages)
- Mon-Khmer languages
- Aslian (19 languages) of peninsular Malaysia and Thailand.
- Monic (2 languages) includes the Mon language of Myanmar and the Nyahkur language of Thailand.
- Nicobar (6 languages) of the Nicobar Islands, a territory of India.
- The Khmer language of Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
- Pearic (6 languages) of Cambodia.
- Bahnaric (40 languages) of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
- Katuic (19 languages) of Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand.
- Khasian (3 languages) of eastern India and Bangladesh.
- Khmuic (13 languages) of Laos and Thailand.
- Palaungic (21 languages) of Myanmar, southern China, and Thailand.
- The Mang language of Vietnam.
- Viet-Muong or Vietic (10 languages) of Vietnam and Laos, includes the Vietnamese language, which has the most speakers of any Austroasiatic language. These are the only Austroasiatic languages to have highly developed tone systems.
- The Palyu language of southern China.
The internal structure of Mon-Khmer is unclear. Some researchers classify Khasian, Khmuic, Palaungic, Mang, and sometimes Viet-Muong together as Northern Mon-Khmer; Katuic, Bahnaric, Pearic, and Khmer together as Eastern Mon-Khmer; and Monic, Nicobar, and Aslian together as Southern Mon-Khmer, but this is debated. In addition, four Mon-Khmer languages of southern China are as yet unclassified within the family.
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