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Tai-Kadai et al.

From:Roger Mills <romilly@...>
Date:Sunday, September 3, 2000, 5:13
Barry Garcia wrote, about 10 days ago:
> >I read somewhere that some linguists link Austronesian with the
> >family. Am i remembering right? Any idea why? What would those two > >families share that is enough to cause some linguists to link them > >together? >
Kristian replied:
> I'm behind about 300 posts, so pardon me if someone already answered > this. I have skimmed Benedict's book "Austro-Thai: Language and
> and the evidence appears to be mostly sound
correspondences/changes. This
> proposed family also includes the Miao-Yao languages. The Austro-
> languages at the time of writing (1975) was proposed only as a
> of Austro-Thai. Basically, Austro-Thai is proposed as being
> disyllabic like Austronesian but Thai has preserved only the last
> while Miao-Yao only the first if not a prefixed form. Clusters were
> significantly reduced in the Austronesian and Miao-Yao forms. For
> from my notes we have (with affixation in brackets): > > AT AN KD MY > EYE *mapLa maTa []pra maay<maat > KILL *[pa]play paTay -- tay<[p]tay > DIE *[ma]play maTay []pla(a)y day<tay > > (where: AT=Austro-Thai, AN=Proto-Austronesian, KD=Kadai, and
> > -kristian- 8)
Roger says: I'm just back from a dreadful two week hiatus, plowing my way thru the archive-- by now am only 600 messages behind (you were certainly busy during my absence!!)-- but I can't pass this one by. Kristian has it about right. The 3 exs. cited seem to be about the only really convincing ones ever produced. Benedict was a very interesting scholar, a talented Sinicist (though I think some would argue with that); but I'm not sure how well he knew Thai or any Austronesian lang., other than printed sources, and often not very current or professional ones at that. My impression is that his Kadai and Miao-Yao knowledge was entirely second-hand, drawn mainly from works published in the 50s, 40s or even earlier-- often the work of missionaries and interested amateurs, whose understanding of the material was often limited, and, what's worse, poorly printed and apparently never proof-read. (I speak from experience with such materials.) His own work, even when published in book form, is also unreliably printed. M-Y forms will appear now in one spelling, now in another; now with one tone mark, now with another. Same for the glosses. The best match seems to be Austronesian/Thai-- with Thai generally choosing the final of two syllables. For M-Y he cites whichever syllable best fits his scheme. This is not respectable linguistics, IMHO. It's a little sad, considering the vast amount of effort he expended; certainly it's a tempting theory, ASSUMING that Austronesian originated on the continent, though in view of the time-depth, probably neither provable nor disprovable. One thing that always struck me as odd: considering his evident knowledge of Chinese/Sino-Tibetan in general, there is almost no mention of influences from that direction on Austronesian. Conversely, in his "Sino-Tibetan Conspectus" he points out several AN loans in various ST langs.-- the most striking being Tib. _bras_ 'rice' : Malay beras. That's almost too good to be true. The discussion on learning Grammar in HS has me shaking my head in dismay, though I'm well aware of the problem. How did this happen? For heaven's sake, in the 40s we learned that stuff in 7th and 8th grade! And that was in a smallish midwestern town with, probably, an average school system. We spent months "diagramming" sentences, which I for one found absolutely fascinating; but eventually even the slowest kids sort-of learned what was a subject, DO, IO, prep.phrase etc. John Cowan's comment on "Jesus raging in the streets" (in view of the state of the paving nowadays) struck home-- I drove a rental truck with zero suspension system from Fla. to Mich. and am still jiggling and bouncing.