AA handbook project

Multi-author reference volume: Handbook of the Austroasiatic Languages

Editors: Mathias Jenny, Paul Sidwell

Overview

The handbook provides essential reference for the Austroasiatc languages, with both descriptive and comparative-historical content. Previously there a complete lack of such an essential scholarly resource on the non-Munda Austroasiatic languages - a much needed companion to the (2008) Munda Languages (Gregory D S Anderson (ed.) Routledge volume.

Discussion

Austroasiatic is one of the big and important language families of South and Southeast Asia with about 170 languages spoken in nine countries stretching from India to Vietnam. The Austroasiatic languages spoken in South and Southeast Asia belong to two typologically clearly distinct groups, namely the Munda languages in central and eastern India and the group traditionally called Mon-Khmer in northeastern India and Southeast Asia. Both groups are well integrated in their linguistic environments, sharing many features with their respective neighboring languages. Geographically and typologically apart are the Nicobarese varieties, a group of languages that are poorly documented and largely inaccessible to outsiders. The Aslian languages spoken in peninsular Malaysia and southern Thailand are on the fringes of the Southeast Asian sprachbund, but show marked structural influence from Malay varieties.

With Khmer in Cambodia and Vietnamese in Vietnam only two Austroasiatic languages today serve as national languages. All other members of the family are spoken by smaller or bigger minority groups in South and Southeast Asian countries, including southwestern China. Historically the Austroasiatic languages are of great importance, as Mon and Khmer are among the earliest attested languages of Southeast Asia with epigraphic documents dating to the 6th century.

The handbook brings together international experts in the field, covering all eastern branches of the Austroasiatic family in short language sketches designed to provide maximum comparability without sacrificing linguistic adequacy. Topics covered by the language sketches include phonology, morphology and syntax. Each chapter also gives a short glossed sample text with translation. In order to guarantee maximum usefulness for linguists with different theoretical background the grammar part of the language sketches are written in a framework independent way, applying functional typological descriptive methods.

Introductory chapters about the geographical, historical, and social setting of the Austroasiatic languages, the history of Austroasiatic studies, the typology of the Austroasiatic languages, make this handbook an important source not only for linguists, but also historians and other scholars interested in South and Southeast Asia.

The introductory overview chapters as well as the descriptive language sketches, together with the additional on-line resources, make this book an important contribution to the linguistic literature in general and particularly of Asian studies.

Published by Brill December 2014 (http://www.brill.com/products/reference-work/handbook-austroasiatic-languages-2-vols)