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This chapter outlines the present-day distribution of languages and language families used across mainland Southeast Asia, drawing on current historical/comparative linguistic research. Overviews are given of what is known in the historical/comparative linguistics of the Austroasiatic, Tai-Kadai, Chamic, Moklenic, Hmong-Mien, and Tibeto-Burman language families, along with surveys of the area's sign languages, classical languages, and writing systems.
This chapter gives an introductory overview of the strategies used in mainland Southeast Asian languages for making verbal predications in the core of clauses. There is an overview of verbal marking including patterns of negation, aspect, and modality. An important feature of the area’s languages is the heavy reliance on serial verb constructions (or multi-verb constructions) for packaging information in clauses and sentences. The chapter surveys various sub-categories of multi-verb construction, including depictive/adverbial constructions and complementation strategies. The chapter closes with a section on valency-changing strategies, including syntactic causatives, reflexives, and reciprocals.
This chapter gives an introductory overview of the patterns of reference and nominal syntax in the languages of mainland Southeast Asia. The chapter begins with the principles by which head nouns are modified, for example by adjectives or relative clauses, or in possessive constructions. Many languages of the area have systems of nominal classification, especially numeral classifiers and class terms. Personal pronoun systems range from extremely simple, such as in certain varieties of Chinese, to extremely complex, such as in the systems of Thai, Burmese, or Cambodian, whose systems of pronouns show elaborate distinctions in social-hierarchical structure and politeness. Demonstrative systems of the area span the range of complexity, ranging from two-term systems to systems with eight or more distinctions.
This chapter provides an introductory overview of the phonological systems used in the languages of mainland Southeast Asia. The chapter begins with an overview of the various systems of consonants and vowels that are found, and the phonotactic principles by which those segments are combined to form syllables. The closely-related phenomena of register and tone are then introduced and defined, followed by an outline of the processes of tonogenesis, by which a language can develop a tone system. The chapter closes with a discussion of further aspects of the area’s sound systems, including tone sandhi, intonation, the prosodic hierarchy and criteria for different notions of ‘word’.
This chapter gives an introductory overview of the strategies for forming words in the languages of mainland Southeast Asia. The chapter begins with a discussion of the form class distinctions that are found, including the categories of noun, verb, adjective, adposition, and adverb. Of the various processes for forming words, the chapter focuses on compounding and reduplication, which are relied upon widely in languages of the area, and affixation, which is a speciality of Austroasiatic languages in particular. The chapter features a section on the uses of tone in word formation, a feature of Hmong-Mien languages. Psycho-collocations are discussed: an area-wide form of compounding involving the mention of body parts to denote emotional and psychological states.
This chapter outlines the complex historical processes that have shaped the present-day distribution of communities and ethnic groups across mainland Southeast Asia. The chapter first introduces some general information about the region, the languages, and some conceptual preliminaries for the book. A historical account then traces developments since prehistory through the emergence of early states in the first millennium of the Common Era, followed by the rise of new states associated with migrations from the north, into the modern colonial and postcolonial era. The chapter finishes with a discussion of the area’s politically dominant languages and a survey of the state of the art in linguistic research.
This concludes our survey of the historical context and structural properties of the languages of mainland Southeast Asia. For a full picture of language in this area, a companion volume to this one would cover the sociology and anthropology of the languages and their speakers, with topics including multilingualism, registers and diglossia, language variation, ideologies of language, language shift and loss, language and identity, verbal art, naming practices, and much more. For now, we close with three points intended to offer some perspective on the picture of MSEA languages and their status that we have outlined in this book. The first point concerns the languages’ status in a global typology of language. The other two highlight the need for a nuanced understanding of the social context in which this dynamic area’s languages have diversified, and continue to develop.
This chapter gives an introductory overview of the basic typological properties of the languages of mainland Southeast Asia, including the morphological profile, and the relative position of major components of phrases, including clauses, noun phrases, adpositional phrases, and comparative constructions. The chapter discusses sentence type distinctions, with a special focus on sentence-final particles, which are found across the mainland Southeast Asia area. The chapter features a section on expressive language, including expressives/ideophones and poetic idioms.