Suwilai Premsrirat      

Research Institute of Language and Culture of Asia, Mahidol University, Thailand       




Pearic as a Dying Branch of Austroasiatic Languages and their Struggle for Survival


The entire Pearic branch of AA is dying. Even though there are record numbers of Pearic speakers in various locations in Cambodia, they are not easily found these days. Four Pearic languages have been found in Thailand. They are Chong, Kasong, Samre and Chung. Kasong, Samre and Chung are at the last stage of endangerment according to Fishman’s GIDS. They have very little hope of survival after the death of the last few elderly speakers. This paper documents and describes the lexical and syntactical characteristics of Pearic languages as well as the register complex and tonogenesis found in Chong, Chung, Kasong and Samre. While Chong and Chung are register languages, Samre is a tone language, and Kasong is at transitional stage of developing tones. These languages are likely to become extinct before the end of this century.

However, there are Chong and Kasong speakers who would like to keep their language alive and they have joined hands with linguists to reverse the situation. This paper presents the struggle for survival of the Chong and the Kasong. Even though Chong language revitalization process is considered to have started twenty years too late, the teaching of Chong as a subject in the formal school system, as part of the Chong language revitalization, has been successful and become a model for other languages with the same problem. On the other hand, for the Kasong only a miracle can help preserve the language beyond the current generation even though they have developed a writing system as a tool for learning and documenting their language.