|Mainland Southeast Asia|
The Vietic languages are a branch of the Austroasiatic language family, spoken by the Vietic peoples in Laos and Vietnam. The branch was once referred to by the terms Việt–Mường, Annamese–Muong, and Vietnamuong; the term Vietic was proposed by La Vaughn Hayes, who proposed to redefine Việt–Mường as referring to a sub-branch of Vietic containing only Vietnamese and Mường.
Many of the Vietic languages have tonal or phonational systems intermediate between that of Viet–Muong and other branches of Austroasiatic that have not had significant Chinese or Tai influence.
Vietnamese, today, has had significant Chinese influence especially in vocabulary and tonal system. Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary accounts for about 30–60% of Vietnamese vocabulary, not including calques from Chinese.
The ancestor of the Vietic language is traditionally assumed to have been located in today's North Vietnam.
However, the origin of the Vietic languages remains a controversial topic among linguists. Another theory, based on linguistic diversity, locates the most probable homeland of the Vietic languages in modern-day Bolikhamsai Province and Khammouane Province in Laos as well as parts of Nghệ An Province and Quảng Bình Province in Vietnam. The time depth of the Vietic branch dates back at least 2,500 years to 2,000 years (Chamberlain 1998); 3,500 years (Peiros 2004); or around 3,000 years (Alves 2020). Even so, archaeogenetics demonstrated that before the Đông Sơn period, the Red River Delta's inhabitants were predominantly Austroasiatic: genetic data from Phùng Nguyên culture's Mán Bạc burial site (dated 1,800 BC) have close proximity to modern Austroasiatic speakers such as the Mlabri and Lua from Thailand, the Nicobarese from India (Nicobar Islands), and the Khmer from Cambodia; meanwhile, "mixed genetics" from Đông Sơn culture's Núi Nấp site showed affinity to "Dai from China, Tai-Kadai speakers from Thailand, and Austroasiatic speakers from Vietnam, including the Kinh"; therefore, "[t]he likely spread of Vietic was southward from the RRD, not northward. Accounting for southern diversity will require alternative explanations."
The Vietnamese language was identified as Austroasiatic in the mid-nineteenth century, and there is now strong evidence for this classification. Modern Vietnamese has lost many Proto-Austroasiatic phonological and morphological features. Vietnamese also has large stocks of borrowed Chinese vocabulary. However, there continues to be resistance to the idea that Vietnamese could be more closely related to Khmer than to Chinese or Tai languages among Vietnamese nationalists. The vast majority of scholars attribute these typological similarities to language contact rather than to common inheritance.
Chamberlain (1998) argues that the Red River Delta region was originally Tai-speaking and became Vietnamese-speaking only between the seventh and ninth centuries AD as a result of emigration from the south, i.e., modern Central Vietnam, where the highly distinctive and conservative North-Central Vietnamese dialects are spoken today. Therefore, the region of origin of Vietnamese (and the earlier Viet–Muong) was well south of the Red River.
On the other hand, Ferlus (2009) showed that the inventions of pestle, oar and a pan to cook sticky rice, which is the main characteristic of the Đông Sơn culture, correspond to the creation of new lexicons for these inventions in Northern Vietic (Việt–Mường) and Central Vietic (Cuoi-Toum). The new vocabularies of these inventions were proven to be derivatives from original verbs rather than borrowed lexical items. The current distribution of Northern Vietic also corresponds to the area of Dong Son culture. Thus, Ferlus concludes that the Northern Vietic (Viet-Muong) is the direct heirs of the Dongsonian, who have resided in Southern part of Red river delta and North Central Vietnam since the 1st millennium BC.
Furthermore, John Phan (2013, 2016) argues that “Annamese Middle Chinese” was spoken in the Red River Valley and was then later absorbed into the coexisting Proto-Viet-Muong, one of whose divergent dialect evolved into Vietnamese language. Annamese Middle Chinese belonged to Middle Chinese dialect continuum in southwestern China that eventually "diversified into" Waxiang Chinese, the Jiudu patois 九都土話 of Hezhou, Southern Pinghua, and various Xiang Chinese dialects (e.g., Xiangxiang 湘鄉, Luxi 瀘溪, Qidong 祁東, and Quanzhou 全州). Phan (2013) lists three major types of Sino-Vietnamese borrowings, which were borrowed during different eras:
Vietic speakers reside in and around the Nakai–Nam Theun Conservation Area of Laos and north-central Vietnam (Chamberlain 1998). Many of these speakers are referred to as Mường, Nhà Làng, and Nguồn. Chamberlain (1998) lists current locations in Laos for the following Vietic peoples. An overview based on first-hand fieldwork has been proposed by Michel Ferlus.
In Vietnam, some Vietic hill-tribe peoples, including the Arem, Rục, Maliêng, and Mày (Cươi), were resettled at Cu Nhái (located either in western Quảng Bình Province or in the southwest of Hương Khê District in Hà Tĩnh Province). The Sách are also found in Vietnam.
The following table lists the lifestyles of various Vietic-speaking ethnic groups. Unlike the neighboring Tai ethnic groups, many Vietic groups are not paddy agriculturalists.
|Small-group foraging nomads||Atel, Thémarou, Mlengbrou, (Cheut?)|
|Originally collectors and traders who have become emergent swidden sedentists||Arao, Maleng, Malang, Makang, Tơe, Ahoe, Phóng|
|Swidden cultivators who move every 2–3 years among pre-existing village sites||Kri|
|Combined swidden and paddy sedentists||Ahao, Ahlao, Liha, Phong (Cham), Toum|
The discovery that Vietnamese was a Mon–Khmer language, and that its tones were a regular reflection of non-tonal features in the rest of the family, is considered a milestone in the development of historical linguistics. Vietic languages show a typological range from a Chinese or Tai typology to a typical Mon-Khmer Austroasiatic typology, including (a) complex tonal systems, complex phonation systems or blends; (b) C(glide)VC or CCVC syllable templates; monosyllabic or polysyllabic and isolating or agglutinative typology.
Sidwell & Alves (2021) propose the following classification of the Vietic languages, which was first proposed in Sidwell (2021). Below, the most divergent (basal) branches listed first. Vietic is split into two primary branches, Western (corresponding to the Thavung–Malieng branch) and Eastern (all of the non-Thavung–Malieng languages).
The Thavung-Malieng group retains the most archaic lexicon and phonological features, while the Chut group merges *-r and *-l finals to *-l with the northern languages.
Sidwell & Alves (2021) propose that the Vietic languages had dispersed from the Red River Delta, based on evidence from loanwords from early Sinitic and extensive Tai-Vietic contact possibly dating back to the Dong Son period.
Chamberlain (2018:9) uses the term Kri-Mol to refer to the Vietic languages, and considers there to be two primary splits, namely Mol-Toum and Nrong-Theun. Chamberlain (2018:12) provides the following phylogenetic classification for the Vietic languages.
Based on comparative studies by Ferlus (1982, 1992, 1997, 2001) and new studies in Muong languages by Phan (2012), Sidwell (2015) pointed out that Muong is a paraphyletic taxon and subgroups with Vietnamese. Sidwell's (2015) proposed internal classification for the Vietic languages is as follows.
The following classification of the Vietic languages is from Chamberlain (2003:422), as quoted in Sidwell (2009:145). Unlike past classifications, there is a sixth "South" branch that includes Kri, a newly described language.
Michel Ferlus (1992, 2013) notes that the 12-year animal cycle (zodiac) names in the Khmer calendar, from which Thai animal cycle names are also derived, were borrowed from a phonologically conservative form of Viet-Muong. Ferlus contends that the animal cycle names were borrowed from a Viet-Muong (Northern Vietic) language rather than from a Southern Vietic language, since the vowel in the Old Khmer name for "snake" m.saɲ corresponds to Viet-Muong /a/ rather than to Southern Vietic /i/.
|Animal||Thai name||Khmer IPA||Modern Khmer||Angkorian Khmer||Old Khmer||Proto-Viet-Muong||Vietnamese||Mường||Pong||Kari|
|鼠 Rat||Chuat (ชวด)||cuːt||jūt (ជូត)||ɟuot||ɟuot||*ɟuot||chuột||chuột[a] /cuot⁸/||-||-|
|牛 Ox||Chalu (ฉลู)||cʰlou||chlūv (ឆ្លូវ)||caluu||c.luː||*c.luː||trâu||tlu /tluː¹/[b]||kluː¹||săluː²|
|虎 Tiger||Khan (ขาล)||kʰaːl||khāl (ខាល)||kʰaal||kʰa:l||*k.haːlˀ||khái[c]||khảl /kʰaːl³/||kʰaːl³||-|
|兔 Rabbit||Thɔ (เถาะ)||tʰɑh||thoḥ (ថោះ)||tʰɔh||tʰɔh||*tʰɔh||thỏ||thó /tʰɔː⁵/||tʰɔː³||-|
|龍 Dragon||Marong (มะโรง)||roːŋ||roṅ (រោង)||marooŋ||m.roːŋ||*m.roːŋ||rồng||rồng /roːŋ²/||-||roːŋ¹|
|蛇 Snake||Maseng (มะเส็ง)||mə̆saɲ||msāñ' (ម្សាញ់)||masaɲ||m.saɲ||*m.səɲˀ||rắn||thẳnh /tʰaɲ³/[d]||siŋ³||-|
|馬 Horse||Mamia (มะเมีย)||mə̆miː||mamī (មមី)||mamia||m.ŋɨa||*m.ŋǝːˀ||ngựa||ngữa /ŋɨa⁴/||-||măŋəː⁴|
|羊 Goat||Mamɛɛ (มะแม)||mə̆mɛː||mamæ (មមែ)||mamɛɛ||m.ɓɛː||*m.ɓɛːˀ||-[e]||bẻ /ɓɛ:³/||-||-|
|猴 Monkey||Wɔɔk (วอก)||vɔːk||vak (វក)||vɔɔk||vɔːk||*vɔːk||voọc[f]||voọc /vɔːk⁸/||vɔːk⁸||-|
|雞 Rooster||Rakaa (ระกา)||rə̆kaː||rakā (រកា)||rakaa||r.kaː||*r.kaː||gà||ca /kaː¹/||kaː¹||kaː¹|
|狗 Dog||Jɔɔ (จอ)||cɑː||ca (ច)||cɔɔ||cɔː||*ʔ.cɔːˀ||chó||chỏ /cɔː³/||cɔː³||cɔː³|
|豬 Pig||Kun (กุน)||kao/kol||kur (កុរ)||kur||kur||*kuːrˀ||cúi[g]||củi /kuːj³/||kuːl⁴||kuːl⁴|
The cradle of the Vietic branch of Austroasiatic is very likely in north Vietnam, at least 1000km to the south‑west of coastal Fújiàn
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