Southeast Asian Languages/Introduction

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The languages of Southeast Asia consist of tongues belonging to more than one language family. Dominant families in the region include the Tai-Kadai (to which the Thai language belongs), Austronesian (such as Bahasa Malaysia and Indonesia as well as most Philippine languages), and Austro-Asiatic (e.g. Khmer and Vietnamese). With that said, cross-linguistic comparisons between these language families show a rather low affinity. In addition, the region is to some extent influenced by other language families due to cultural pressures, immigration, and historical colonization as well.

The division aims to foster a more expanded and careful study of the languages indigenous to Southeast Asia, to aid foreigners to the countries within the region with useful words and phrases to get by, and finally to share with the world community the region's rich and charming literary traditions.

Below is an incomplete list of the various languages used in Southeast Asia. Among these, the official languages are in bold:

  • Brunei: Malay, indigenous Austronesian languages
  • Cambodia: Khmer, Vietnamese, Chamic languages
  • Christmas Island: Malay
  • Cocos (Keeling) Islands: Cocos Malay
  • East Timor: Tetun, Mambae, Makasae, Tukudede, Bunak, Galoli, Kemak, Fataluku, Baikeno, other Austronesian and Papuan languages
  • Indonesia: Indonesian, Acehnese, Batak, Sundanese, Javanese, Sasak, Tetum, "Dayak" languages, Minahasa, Toraja, Buginese, Halmahera, Ambonese, Ceramese, and many Papuan languages
  • Laos: Lao, Hmong, Miao, Mien, Dao, Shan, and other Tibeto-Burman derived languages
  • Malaysia: Malay, various indigenous languages (of the Orang Asli and indigenous peoples of Sabah and Sarawak)
  • Myanmar: Burmese, Shan dialects, Karen dialects, Rakhine, Kachin, Chin, Mon, hilltribe languages
  • Philippines: Filipino, English, Tagalog, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray-Waray, Ilokano, Kapampangan, Pangasinan, Bicolano, Maranao, Maguindanao, Tausug, Kinaray-a, Chavacano (Spanish-based creole), other Philippine languages and dialects.
  • Singapore: Malay, English, Standard Chinese, Tamil, various Chinese languages
  • Thailand: Thai, Isan, Shan, Lue, Phutai, Khmer, Mon, Mein, Hmong, Karen, Malay
  • Vietnam: Vietnamese, Tay, Muong, Khmer, Nung, Hmong, Tai Dam, Malay, French creole

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