LINGUIST List 9.148

Sat Jan 31 1998

Review: Mon-Khmer Studies 27

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  1. neil.olsen, Review of Mon-Khmer Studies 27

Message 1: Review of Mon-Khmer Studies 27

Date: Mon, 26 Jan 98 12:06:50 -0700
From: neil.olsen <>
Subject: Review of Mon-Khmer Studies 27

Review of Mon-Khmer Studies, Vol. 27 (1997); Mahidol University at 
Salaya, Thailand, and Summer Institute of Linguistics, Dallas, Texas, 
USA; US $39.00.

Reviewed by Neil H. Olsen,

Volume 27 of Mon-Khmer Studies (MKS) is dedicated to Paul K. 
Benedict on the occasion of his 85th birthday (5 July 1997). 
Tragically, Dr. Benedict died sixteen days later in an automobile 
accident. Robert S. Bauer writes a memorial tribute which includes a 
concise biography. Following Bauer's memorial, he and other MKS 
editors have compiled a bibliography of Benedict\213s articles, books, 
and conference papers--the most current and complete published to 

MKS 27 is the third volume in the special series dedicated to 
recognized experts in the field of Southeast Asian linguistics. MKS 
25 was dedicated to the late Andre Haudricourt and MKS 26 to 
David Thomas, one of the founding editors of MKS in 1964. MKS 28 
will resume the regular format of the journal. Although MKS is 
generally a journal devoted to Mon-Khmer and Austroasiatic 
languages, it welcomes articles on other Southeast Asian languages 
and language families.

The 28 papers in this volume are more ambitious than previous MKS 
volumes and represent a wide range of linguistic topics which reflect 
Dr. Benedict's broad, eclectic, and sometimes controversial interests. 
There are papers on Chinese, Japanese, Tai, Sino-Tibetan, Tibeto-
Burman, Hmong-Mien, Austronesian, and, of course, Austroasiatic. 
The main purpose of this review is to briefly summarize the various 
papers so that readers may select those articles which interest them.

The first paper is Paul K. Benedict's, "Interphyla flow in Southeast 
Asia," which was one of the keynote speeches at the 4th 
International Symposium on Languages and Linguistics, Pan-Asiatic 
Linguistics, held in Bangkok in January 1966. Benedict warns us 
that the field of Southeast Asian Linguistics is the Bosnia of historical 
linguistics--a lovely landscape strewn with land mines! He playfully 
formulates a Law of Historical Linguistics: the number of linguistic 
errors perpetrated is inversely proportional to the median length of 
the roots involved. The remainder of his paper is devoted to 
exploring Sino-Tibetan, Mon-Khmer, and Austro-Tai homelands 
(with a map and diagram), distinguishing between direct and stimulus 
diffusion in interphyla tone flow, and contrasting affixation patterns 
among the superstocks. Finally, he traces a pair of Mon-Khmer loan-
words, 'tiger' and 'raptor', as they 'invade' Southeast Asia. 

"On the Track of Austric: Part II, Consonant Mutation in Early 
Austroasiatic' by La Vaughn H. Hayes is a data-rich paper 
continuing (Part I in MKS 21) his effort to validate Wilhem Schmidt's 
1906 hypothesis that Austroasiatic and Austronesian are genetically 
related and should be grouped under a new Austric superstock. 
Hayes claims that diachronic changes affecting Proto-Austroasiatic 
obscure and conceal the linkage between ancient consonants and 
their modern reflexes. These changes have contributed to the 
difficulty of establishing the lexical connection between Austroasiatic 
and Austronesian. This paper describes and details four plre
phonological shifts--palatalization, spirantization, assibilation, and 
voicing--which took place early in the history of the Austroasiatic 
language family causing massive mutations in the consonant system.

Dipankar Moral, in "North-East India as a linguistic area," delineates 
seven Indian states--with 220 languages belonging to the Indo-
European, Sino-Tibetan, and Austroasiatic families--as a linguistic 
area distinct from the rest of India. Lists of common linguistic 
characteristics (phonological, grammatical, and lexical features) 
bolster the argument of areal uniqueness. Read this paper in 
conjunction with Simon's paper noted below.

Michel Ferlus, in 'Le maleng bro et le vietnamien, describes the 
phonology and morphology of Maleng Bro, a Viet-Muong language 
spoken in Khammouan, Laos. Data from Maleng sheds light on Viet-
Muong linguistic history, especially the syllable structure and ancient 
morphology of Vietnamese and the development of its tones.

David Filbeck, in "The Protasis-Apodosis construction in Mal," gives 
a structural and functional description of a topic-comment syntactic 
pattern in Mal, a Mon-Khmer language spoken in northern Thailand.

Sujaritlak Deepadung and Suriya Ratanakul, in "Final particles in 
conversational Mal (Thin)," discuss status, question, and mood 
sentence final particles in the Ban Sakat Klang dialect of Mal.

Dai Qingxia and Liu Yan, in "Analysis of the tones in the Guangka 
subdialect of Deang," present a synchronic description and analysis 
of Guangka tones. They compare Guangka to other Deang dialects 
with and without tones. Deang is a Mon-Khmer language spoken in 
southwest Yunnan, China. This study contributes to further 
understanding of the development of tone systems in Mon-Khmer 

Theraphan L.-Thongkum, in "The place of Lawi, Harak, and Tariang 
within Bahnaric," presents the results of field work with Mon-Khmer 
languages spoken in Sekong province, Laos. Ethnolinguistic data 
and word lists are included. Lawi is classified as a West Bahnaric 
language, while the place of Harak and Tariang within Bahnaric is 
unclear at present.

Natalja M. Spatar, in "Imperative Constructions in Cambodian," 
notes that the Cambodian imperative paradigm consists of four 
categories: 1st person sg. and pl., 2nd person, and 3rd person. The 
center of this paradigm is the 2nd person imperative forms: any 
imperative marker (except oj) can be used in a 2nd person 
imperative, and only 2nd person imperatives can be used without any 
marker and without a subject.

Suwilai Premsrirat, in "Linguistic Contributions to the Study of the 
Northern Khmer Language of Thailand in the last Two Decades," 
surveys the linguistic work, major developments, and recent research 
that has been conducted on Khmer (Cambodian) as spoken in 
Thailand. A 3-page bibliography is included.

Sophana Srichampa, in "Serial verb constructions in Vietnamese," 
examines a specific verb construction in Vietnamese--a sequence of 
verbs occurring together with a non-overt subject and/or a non-overt 
object--within the framework of Government and Binding Theory.

Zhou Zhizhi and Yan Qixiang, in their "On the genetic affiliation of 
Vietnamese," reopen the old debate concerning whether Vietnamese 
is a Tai, Austroasiatic, or Chinese language. They compare 159 basic 
vocabulary items from Vietnamese with Thai and Zhuang (Tai 
languages) and Wa, Blang, and Palaung (Austroasiatic languages). 
Focusing on a 40% cognate rate with Wa, they examine phonetic 
and grammatical similarities between Vietnamese and Wa and 
confirm that Vietnamese is indeed an Austroasiatic language.

I. M. Simon, in "On first looking into Paul K. Benedict's Sino-
Tibetan," uses Benedict 1972 as a starting point to compare Khasi, a 
Mon-Khmer language spoken in Assam, with Tibeto-Burman, and 
with Huffman's (1990) Mon and Kur wordlists. This paper should be 
read in conjunction with Moral's paper noted above.

David Bradley, in "What did they eat? Grain crops of the Burmic 
groups." follows up on Benedict 1972 and 1975 and takes a closer 
look at the reconstruction of words for various grain crops within the 
Burmic subgroup of Sino-Tibetan. Bradley draws some conclusions 
about the implications of this reconstruction for the original 
homeland of the Burmic, Tibeto-Burman, and Sino-Tibetan groups.

James A. Matisoff, in "Dayang Pumi phonology and adumbrations of 
comparative Qiangic," analyzes Pumi's complex phonology and 
tones in great detail. He discusses Pumi's place in the Qiangic family 
and notes that much internal reconstruction will be necessary before 
details of the complex initial- and rhyme-correspondences will be 
figured out. Pumi is a Tai language spoken in Yunnan, China.

Helen Potopova, in "Semantic characteristics of the Tibetan honorific 
forms," focuses on words taking honorific prefixes, the original 
meanings of which are anatomical terms. In Tibetan, the choice to 
use an honorific form as opposed to a neutral form is determined by 
social stratification and the situation of the communication act itself. 
Semantic and lexical evidence is presented.

George Bedell, in "Causatives and clause union in Lai (Chin)," 
examines causative constructions in Lai within a generative 
framework. Lai, also called Hakha Chin, is spoken in Chin State, 
Myanmar (Burma).

Ilia Peiros, in "Lolo-Burmese linguistic archaeology," discusses what 
linguistic data suggest about speakers of Proto-Lolo-Burmese (PLB). 
Three main issues are discussed: (1) localization of PLB homeland; 
(2) absolute dating for the disintegration of PLB homeland; and (3) 
some features of PLB cultural reconstruction. Peiros proposes that 
3800-3600 years ago a highly developed culture flourished in 
Yunnan, connected more with sub-Himalayan cultures than 
Southeast Asian. There is an appendix of PLB cultural lexicon.

K. S. Nagaraja's "Kinship terms in Konyak Naga" is a data paper 
listing kinship terminology collected for Konyak Naga, a Tibeto-
Burman language of Nagaland state in India.

Jerold A. Edmonson and Kenneth J. Gregerson, in their "Outlying 
Kam-Tai: notes on Ta Mit Laha," offer recent field notes primarily on 
the phonology of Laha, a Kadai language spoken in northern 
Vietnam. There is a brief overview of Laha ethnolinguistic history 
along with comparative comments on the rather large shared 
vocabulary with the Tai branch. They conclude that the Laha 
language of Ta Mit township will prove useful in future work in 
deciphering the history of outlier Kadai languages. Wave form and 
pitch trajectory of two words are illustrated; a map showing Laha 
groups in Vietnam and China is very useful.

Luo Yongxian, in "Expanding the Proto-Tai Lexicon--a Supplement 
to Li (1977)," examines a sizable number of new cognate sets which 
substantially expands Li's seminal 1977 work. Using lexical 
classification, the new cognates sets are arranged by semantic field: 
nature and environment, agricultural terms, etc. Implications of 
lexical classification for subgrouping in Tai langauges are discussed 
and cognates rates are tabulated.

Qin Xiaohang, in "Evolution of the initial consonant clusters pl, 
kl, ml in the Hongshiuhe vernacular of Zhuang," analyzes the 
historical evolution of the initial consonant clusters pl, kl, ml in the 
Hongshuihe vernacular, a northern dialect of Zhuang, a Tai language, 
spoken in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in China.

Udom Warotamasikkhadit, in "Fronting and backing topicalization 
in Thai," observes that, in Thai, topicalization can occur at the 
beginning of, in the middle of, or at the end of a sentence. Illustrative 
sentences are given and it is concluded that topicalization is closely 
related to emphasis.

Apiluck Tumtavitikul, in "Reflection on the X' category in Thai," 
questions whether or not there is an intermediate level of X' category 
in Thai. Evidence is presented for the existence of X' in Thai, in 
particular, N' and V', and most probably A' and P' as well, if a 
similar kind of argumentation is applied. There is a concluding 
discussion of the implications.

Martha Ratliff, in "Hmong-Mien demonstratives and pattern 
persistence," examines the persistence of a 3-way, person-oriented 
demonstrative system in the Hmong-Mien (Miao-Yao) family. The 
Hmong Daw (White Hmong) demonstrative ko 'that-near you' is 
discussed in detail. Ratliff comments on the implications of pattern 
persistence in relation to Southeast Asia areal types, relexification, 
and Hmong-Mien as Austro-Tai.

Christiane Cormo, in "Towards a constructivist approach of the 
Japanese 'Passive'," recategorizes Japanese passive verbs according 
to the pronominal approach in a constructivist framework.

Joseph F. Kess and Tadao Miyamoto, in "Psycholinguistic aspects of 
Hanji processing in Chinese," explore the psycholinguistic 
dimensions of logographic hanji character processing and linguistic 
recognition in Chinese. They review the current literature on the 
subject and attempt to synthesize the conflicting explanations offered 
by two opposing theoretical models of Chinese lexical access, word 
recognition, and the architecture of the Chinese mental lexicon.

The final paper in the volume, Ernest W. Lee's, "Austronesian for 
ordinary speakers of Austronesian languages" demonstrates the 
pedagogical technique of introducing the notion of a proto-language 
and daughter languages to non-linguist Austronesian speakers from 
the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu using Roglai (Vietnam) and 
Maguindanao (Philippines) cognates.

Errata for two articles that appeared in MKS 26, and a publications 
list of the Institute of Language and Culture for Rural Development at 
Mahidol University complete this issue.

Soliciting, compiling, and editing articles for inclusion in dedicatory 
or special issues of journals is difficult in itself; the editors of MKS 
have done an admirable job on the last three volumes. My only 
criticism is that in a few papers (e.g., Ratliff, Cormo), some works 
cited are not referenced in the bibliography, making it difficult to 
follow up on an interesting topic.


Benedict, Paul K. 1972 Sino-Tibetan: a Conspectus. James A 
Matisoff, contributing ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Benedict, Paul K. 1975 Austro-Thai Language and Culture. New 
Haven: Human Relations Area Files.

Huffman, Franklin E. 1990 Burmese Mon, Thai Mon, and Nyah Kur: 
A Synchronic Comparison. MKS 16-17:31-84.

Li, Fang-Kuei. 1977 A Handbook of Comparative Tai. Oceanic 
Linguistics Special Publications, 15. Honolulu: The University Press 
of Hawaii.

The author of this review is Neil H. Olsen, Information Planner with 
Salt Lake City Corporation. He earned a M.A. in linguistics from the 
University of Utah in 1994. Olsen has been an adjunct instructor at 
the English Language Institute, University of Utah. His linguistic 
interests focus on South Bahnaric languages, where he did field work 
with Koho speakers in Vietnam (1967-68) and in North Carolina 
(1997). He is currently working on a Koho grammar and dictionary.

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