News and Events

Seminar: "A SEAsian homeland for the Austroasiatic Languages" 

by Dr. Paul Sidwell, Mon-Khmer Projects for the Center for Research in Computational Linguistics, Bangkok

Date: Friday, 5 March 10; Time: 1.30pm to 2.30pm ; Venue: HSS Seminar Room 3 (HSS-B1-10)

Recent attention has focussed on the question of localising the Austroasiatic homeland, especially interdisciplinary inquiries seeking correlations between linguistics, genetics, and archaeology. Among the various suggestions that have been offered over the years, one can distinguish three broad lines of inquiry:

1. a western origin, in eastern India or about the Bay of Bengal,

2. a northern origin, in central or southern China, and

3. a central origin, within Southeast Asia

Interestingly, the last of these is the least popular hypothesis. Consequently specialists are in the position of having to find arguments in support of a homeland in locations where little or none on the diversity of the Austroasiatic phylum is found today.

Instead, Dr. Sidwell suggest that the marked geographical clustering of Austroasiatic languages along the course of the Mekong river indicates that proto-Austroasiatic speakers inhabited a riverine corridor overlapping modern NE Thailand and Southern Laos, from which they radiated in NW and SW trajectories. The evidence of proto-Austroasiatic lexicon, and the internal phylogeny of Austroasiatic, is consistent with this claim.

About the Speaker
Paul Sidwell is the Director of Mon-Khmer Projects for the Center for Research in Computational Linguistics,Bangkok. Dr. Sidwell is a leading authority on Katuic and Bahnaric comparative linguistics. His research interests include comparative and palaeolinguistics, descriptive linguists, Mon-Khmer languages and ethnic groups, Southeast Asian (pre)history, language contact, and the history of linguistics. A Visiting Fellow of Australian National University, Dr. Sidwell is managing editor of JSEALS, a board member of the Pacific Linguistics publishing house, and editorial advisor to the MKS Journal.