The Katuic languages are a branch of the Mon-Khmer family with more than a
million speakers in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The present study
compiles data from various sources, including recent fieldwork that has
helped to reveal the extent and diversity of the family. Sixteen languages
are compared to produce a comparative reconstruction of the Proto Katuic
phonology and lexicon, including 1400 etymologies and reconstructions, and
many wider MK comparisons.
Katuic languages are particularly significant for their rich vowel systems,
which are among the most complex in the world, and include contrastive
phonation types or 'registers'. In some cases these arose from the
splitting of vowels in connection with changes in initial consonants.
Interestingly it appears that register systems arose independently at least
three times in the history of the Katuic family.
The reconstruction of Proto Katuic reveals an archaic phonological system
not far removed from Proto Mon-Khmer, and the study is augmented with an
index of Proto Mon-Khmer reconstructions by the late Professor Harry Shorto
The author is a Visiting Research Fellow at the School of Pacific and Asian
Studies of the Australian National University, where his work is supported
by the Max Planck Institute (Leipzig).