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Language History in Light of Population Genetics and Archeology: The Case of Southeast Asia and South China

Colloquium with Professor Jerold A. Edmondson, Department of Linguistics and TESOL, University of Texas at Arlington

Friday, April 13, 2007
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
243 Royce Hall
UCLA Campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095

This paper examines how new information about the migratory pathway of homo sapiens out-of-Africa and archeology in the period 50-10,000 years before the present can inform us about the  history and pre-history of the languages of SE Asia and S. China.  It will focus especially on the Tai, Miao-Yao, and Tibeto-Burman languages and to a lesser extent on the Mon-Khmer stocks of this linguistic area.

Much recent information from Y chromosomal DNA haplotypes suggests that (S)E Asia was settled by people and groups coming from India about 40,000 years ago who entered from Myanmar into the SW part of China and divided into three groups: (1) a northern strain moving up to the head waters of the Yellow River and dividing there into the Tibeto-Burman people, who remained there, and those who moved down river and become the Huaxia (ethnic Han Chinese), (2) those people groups who stopped further south and then moved down the Yangzi River toward Shanghai and became the Miao-Yao people groups, and (3) those who first looped south in Laos and then moved northeast into Vietnam settling along the S and SE coastal areas of China up to Shanghai--the Baiyue precurors of the Tai and some of the Taiwan aboriginals.

Much of this new information squares well with the accounts of Chinese historians and archeological finds about peoples and groups of S. China and SE Asia.  It also partly supports Paul Benedict's Austro-Tai Hypothesis that connects Tai, possibly also Miao-Yao with Austronesian languages. There is also one piece of very early linguistic evidence recorded in Chinese characters, The Yue-Ren Ge 'Song of the Yue Boatman, of 528 BC, that appears to represent a Tai language and would be the very earliest data on this group.

Jerold A. Edmondson is Professor of Linguistics and Member of the Academy of Distinguished Scholars, Department of Linguistics and TESOL, University of Texas at Arlington. He received his Ph.D. from UCLA.  He was a Visiting Professor of Linguistics at Mahidol University, Thailand in 2004 and 2005, and a Visiting Fellow in Thai Studies at the Australian National University in 2001.  Publications (sometimes with others) include: "A phonetic study of the Sui consonants and tones," "Tones and Voice Quality in Modern Northern Vietnamese: Instrumental Case Studies," and the Kam-Chinese-Thai-English Dictionary.  He also served as Editor for Vietnamese vocabulary in English for the New Oxford English Dictionary.

Parking at UCLA costs $8.

Cost : Free and open to the public.


Sponsor(s): Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Center for Chinese Studies, Asian Languages & Cultures

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