Towards Proto-Khmuic: Investigations in Khmuic Historical Phonology

The Khmuic languages of Northern Laos and adjacent areas constitute a relatively little-researched branch of the Austroasiatic language family. With the exception of Khmu, spoken by over half a million people and studied in some detail, Khmuic languages are spoken by small communities, some numbering only a few hundred speakers or, in the case of Iduh, less than a hundred. All of these smaller languages are endangered to some degree, and little published research has dealt with them.

My PhD dissertation aims to provide a first account of Khmuic linguistic history, based on primary data that I am collecting in Laos and Thailand. For most varieties included in my investigations, this is the first time that they will be documented and described in print. There is urgency to work on these languages, since besides being poorly described, if at all, several of them are well on their way to extinction.

As Khmuic is a phonologically quite conservative branch of Austroasiatic, research on Khmuic historical phonology can be expected to contribute significantly to our understanding of Austroasiatic linguistic history more generally.