- Mon-Khmer languages
Family of about 130 Austroasiatic languages, spoken by more than 80 million people in South and Southeast Asia.Vietnamese has far more speakers than all other Austroasiatic languages combined. Other languages with many speakers are Muong, with about a million speakers in northern Vietnam; Khmer; Kuay (Kuy), with perhaps 800,000 speakers; and Mon, spoken by more than 800,000 people in southern Myanmar and parts of Thailand. Of all the Mon-Khmer languages, only Mon, Khmer, and Vietnamese have written traditions dating earlier than the 19th century. Old Mon, which is attested from the 7th century, was written in a script of South Asian origin that was later adapted by the Burmese (see Mon kingdom; Indic writing systems). Typical phonetic features of Mon-Khmer languages are a large vowel inventory and lack of tone distinctions.
* * *language family included in the Austroasiatic stock. Mon-Khmer languages constitute the indigenous language family of mainland Southeast Asia. They range north to southern China, south to Malaysia, west to Assam state in India, and east to Vietnam. The most important Mon-Khmer languages, having populations greater than 100,000, are Vietnamese (Vietnamese language), Khmer (Khmer language), Muong, Mon (Mon language), Khāsi (Khāsi language), Khmu, and Wa.The family consists of some 130 languages, most of which are not, or very rarely, written. Several languages are spoken by only a few hundred speakers and are in imminent danger of extinction; these include Phalok, Iduh, Thai Then, Mlabri, Aheu, Arem, Chung (Sa-och), Song of Trat, Samrai, Nyah Heuny, Che' Wong, and Shompe. The family is subclassified into 12 branches: Khasian, Palaungic, Khmuic, Pakanic, Vietic, Katuic, Bahnaric, Khmeric, Pearic, Monic, Aslian, and Nicobarese. There has been reluctance in the past in accepting Vietic, which includes Vietnamese, as a branch of Mon-Khmer, but recent studies make this quite certain. Nicobarese was also thought to form a separate family in the Austroasiatic stock, but recent data from this poorly known branch confirm its inclusion in Mon-Khmer. The Chamic languages of Vietnam and Cambodia, which were included by some scholars in the Mon-Khmer family, have now been reclassified as Austronesian.
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