Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Lexical borrowing between some Austronesian and Austroasiatic languages
Mon-Khmer languages (especially Mon and Khmer themselves) and some Austronesian languages (especially Malay-Indonesian and Javanese) share a large number of vocabulary items of similar sounds and meanings. Most of these are due to heavy parallel borrowing from Sanskrit, which occurred in the context of the more general process of Indianization (Cœdès 1968). However, there are also a significant number of similar words that do not appear to be of Indic origin. Even if one believes that Austroasiatic and Austronesian are ultimately related, many words are too similar to each other phonetically and semantically to be the plausible results of shared retention from a proto language after many thousands of years of separation. They are also too numerous to be the products of a chance resemblance. A more convincing explanation for the presence of these lexical similarities would be borrowing.
it is difficult to tell the direction of the borrowing, especially when an
etymon has reflexes in several languages in each family, but in many cases the
direction is clear. One example is Malay-Indonesian semut ‘ant’. The
reconstructed Proto Malayo-Polynesian form for ‘ant’ is *me-(n)tik / ha-(n)tik
(Zorc 1995:1151), clearly not the predecessor of Malay-Indonesian semut. Within
Austronesian, only languages that are relatively close to Malay-Indonesian
(genealogically or geographically) exhibit cognates of semut (cf. Rejang semut,
Javanese semut, Balinese semut, Sasak semut,
This paper discusses various words which appear to have been borrowed between Mon and Khmer on the one hand and Malay-Indonesian and Javanese on the other hand, and correlates them to historical scenarios which could have given rise to the borrowing.
Cœdès, Georges, 1968. The Indianized States of
Shorto, Harry, 2006. A Mon-Khmer Comparative Dictionary.
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Zorc, R. David, 1995. A glossary of Austronesian
reconstructions. In: Darrel T. Tryon (ed.): Comparative Austronesian
Dictionary: An Introduction to Austronesian Studies.