EthnicityMoken people, Moklen people
Mergui Archipelago; Burma; Peninsular Thailand
Linguistic classificationAustronesian
Proto-languageProto-Moklenic (Proto-Moken-Moklen)

The Moklenic or Moken–Moklen languages consist of a pair of two closely related but distinct languages, namely Moken and Moklen. Larish (1999) establishes the two languages as forming two distinct subgroups of a larger Moken–Moklen branch. Larish (2005)[1] suggests Moklenic as an alternative name for Moken–Moklen, the latter term which was originally used by Larish (1999).


There are two Moklenic languages.[1]

Moken and Moklen are linguistically and culturally related but distinct from each other, with Moken speakers primarily being sea-based hunter-gatherers, while Moklen speakers are land-based people living in villages and towns of southern Thailand (Larish 2005). Comparative studies of Moken and Moklen include those of Leerabhandh (1984),[2] Makboon (1981),[3] and Larish (1999).

The Moklenic languages are spoken along a 650-kilometer stretch of the west coast of southern Myanmar and southern Thailand, from Tavoy Island, Burma to Phi Phi Island, Thailand (Larish 2005). Moken has a very wide distribution, while Moklen is exclusively spoken on the western coast of southern Thailand. Moklen displays heavy Southern Thai influence and is more endangered than Moken.[1]

Urak Lawoi’ is spoken by another group of Sea Gypsies in southern Thailand. It is one of the Malayic languages, and is not a Moklenic language. On Phuket Island, Urak Lawoi’ is in contact with Moken.

External relationships

Larish (1999, 2005)

Larish (1999, 2005) considers Moklenic to be a sister of the Chamic and Malayic languages rather than as part of them. Moklenic languages have also been strongly influenced by Austroasiatic languages, with many of those Austroasiatic loanwords, such as 'bird', also found in Chamic.[4]

Larish (1999)[4] classifies the two languages Moken and Moklen as part of a larger Moklenic–Acehnese-Chamic-Malayic ("MACM") subgroup.


While the Acehnese-Chamic-Malayic languages display a Proto-Malayo-Polynesian *q > *h sound change, Moklenic languages instead display a Proto-Malayo-Polynesian *q > *k sound change.

Larish (1999) also speculates that the unknown extinct language (or languages) of the Funan Empire in southern Vietnam may have been an early split from Proto-Moklenic–Acehnese-Chamic-Malayic.

Smith (2017)

In a recent classification of the western Malayo-Polynesian languages, Smith (2017: 459)[5] argues based on phonological evidence that Moklenic is a primary branch from Proto-Malayo-Polynesian.


Proto-Moken-Moklen has been reconstructed by Larish (1999).[4]


  1. ^ a b c Larish, Michael. 2005. "Moken and Moklen." in Alexander Adelaar and Nikolaus P. Himmelmann (eds.), The Austronesian languages of Asia and Madagascar, 513-533. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-7007-1286-0.
  2. ^ Leerabhandh, S. (1984) Phonological reconstruction of Proto Orang-Laut, MA Thesis at Mahidol University, Nakhon Pathom: Institute of Language and Culture for Rural Development, Salaya Campus.
  3. ^ Makboon, S. (1981) Survey of Sea People’s dialects along the West Coast of Thailand, MA Thesis at Mahidol University, Nakhon Pathom: Institute of Language and Culture for Rural Development.
  4. ^ a b c Larish, Michael David. 1999. The Position of Moken and Moklen Within the Austronesian Language Family. Doctoral dissertation, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa.
  5. ^ Smith, Alexander D. (2017). "The Western Malayo-Polynesian Problem". Oceanic Linguistics. 56 (2): 435–490. doi:10.1353/ol.2017.0021.

Further reading

  • Larish, Michael David (1991). ‘The special relationship between Moken, Acehnese, Chamic and Mon-Khmer: Areal influence or genetic affinity?’ Unpublished paper presented at the Sixth International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics, Honolulu University of Hawai'i.
  • Larish, Michael David (1993) ‘Who are the Moken and Moklen on the Islands and Coasts of the Andaman Sea?’ in Pan-Asiatic Linguistics: Proceedings of the Third International Symposium on Language and Linguistics, Chulalongkorn University, January 8–10, 1992, volume III:1305–19, Bangkok: Chulalongkorn University Printing House.
  • Larish, Michael David (1997) ‘Moklen-Moken phonology: Mainland or insular Southeast Asian typology?’, in C. Odé and W. Stokhof (eds), Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics, 125–50, Amsterdam: Rodopi.
  • Naw Say Bay. 1995. "The phonology of the Dung dialect of Moken", in Papers in Southeast Asian Linguistics No. 13, Studies in Burmese Languages, ed. D. Bradley, vol. 13, pp. 193–205. Pacific Linguistics, the Australian National University.