- East Asian languages
East Asian languages describe two notional groupings of languages in East and Southeast
* Languages which have been greatly influenced by
Classical Chineseand the Chinese writing system, in particular Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese (also known as CJKV).
* The larger grouping of languages including the CJKV area as well as several language groups of Southeast Asia including other Sino-Tibetan, Tai-Kadai, and
Austronesian languages.Although most of these languages are genetically unrelated, they share many areal features due to geographic proximity. This is also known as the East Asian sprachbund.
The CJKV area refers to Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese, the languages with large amounts of vocabulary of Chinese origin (i.e. Sino-Japanese, Sino-Korean, Sino-Vietnamese) and which are or were formerly written with
Chinese characters. Because modern Vietnamese is no longer written with Chinese characters at all, it is sometimes left out of this grouping, in which case the area is just called CJK.
Chinaitself, these coincide with the area where Literary Chinesewas at one time used as the written language, and influenced the development of a national written language based on the previously unwritten local non-Chinese language. Chinese morphology and word formation principles have been carried over into these languages, so that it is not uncommon for Chinese-style compound words to be coined in Japanese from originally Chinese morphemes, and then borrowed back into Chinese where they are used without Chinese speakers being aware of their Japanese origin.
Today, these words of Chinese origin may be written in the
traditional Chinesecharacters (Chinese, occasionally in Japanese, Korean), simplified Chinesecharacters (Chinese, Japanese), a locally developed phonetic script (Korean hangul, occasionally in Japanese kana), or a modified Latin alphabet( Vietnamese alphabet).
Areal linguistic features
Several areal features partially coincide with or extend beyond the CJKV area, forming a sprachbund of unrelated languages:
**are typical of Chinese and Vietnamese, but also Burmese, Thai, Lao, and some other languages of mainland
Southeast Asiaand South China. They are not usual in Korean, Japanese, or Austronesian languages, though.
**Monosyllabic morphemes do not always imply monosyllabic words; Chinese is rich in polysyllabic words. Some polysyllabic morphemes exist even in Chinese and Vietnamese, often loan words from other languages.
**Chinese and Vietnamese, as well as Burmese, Thai, Lao, and some other languages of mainland Southeast Asia and South China are "tonal languages". Korean, Japanese, and Austronesian languages do "not" have morphemic tone. (Korean and Japanese are somewhat similar languages believed by some to belong to the same family; they share many features distinct from Sino-Tibetan and many other families.) Reconstruction of Vietnamese,
Old Chineseand ancient Tibetan have suggested that these languages originally did not have morphemic tone, but later developed it; the process of tone development is known as tonogenesis.
**Chinese and languages of Southeast Asia are highly
analytic languages. Words are not obligatorily marked or inflected for gender, number, person, case, tense, or mood. Instead, these properties can optionally be indicated by adding independent, invariant modifier words and particles that are sometimes not even bound morphemes.
**Japanese verbs and Korean verbs do have suffixes for properties of the verb itself like aspect, mood, and tense, similar to those of the
Ural-Altaiclanguages further north, but agree with Chinese and Southeast Asian languages in not marking gender, number, or any other properties of the verb arguments on the verb itself. (not head-marking)
**Languages of both the CJKV area and both mainland and island Southeast Asia typically have a well-developed system of
measure words or numerical classifiers. (The relationship between nouns and their classifiers is, atypically, a way that East Asian languages require more agreement and are less analytic than most other languages.)
Bengali languagejust to the west of Southeast Asia has numerical classifiers, even though it is an Indo-European language which does not share the other features discussed in this article. Bengali also lacks gender, unlike most Indo-European languages.
**The other areas of the world where numerical classifier systems are common in indigenous languages are the western parts of North and South America, so that numerical classifiers could even be seen as a pan-
Pacific Rimareal feature. However, similar noun class systems are also found among most Sub-Saharan African languages.
::"Mandarin Chinese example":
This way of marking previously mentioned vs. newly introduced information is an alternative to articles, which are not found in East Asian languages.
Personal pronounsin many of the region's languages including Japanese, Korean, Thai, and Malay/Indonesian are open class words rather than closed class words: they are not stable over time, not few in number, and not clitics whose use is obligatory in grammatical constructs. New personal pronouns or forms of reference or address can and often do evolve from nouns as fresh ways of expressing respect or social status. Another way of viewing this phenomenon is that these languages do not have personal pronouns in the Western sense.
Chinese pronounsare partly an exception; the 1st/2nd/3rd person pronouns "wǒ"，"nĭ", and "tā" that are most used today can be traced back thousands of years to Proto- Sino-Tibetanand are used to refer to all sorts of people, even more so since the decay of traditional respect/politeness language. Many of the personal pronouns historically used in Literary Chineseare obsolete in Modern Chinese.
* Linguistic systems of
politeness, including frequent use of honorifics, with varying levels of politeness or respect, are well-developed in Javanese, Japanese and Korean. Politeness systems in Chinese are relatively weak, having devolved from a more developed system into a much less predominant role in modern Chinese. [http://www.inst.at/kctos/speakers_g-m/kadar.htmKCTOS 2007: What Happened to the Honorifics?] This is especially true when speaking of the southern Chinese languages. However, Vietnamese has retained a highly complex system of pronouns, in which the terms mostly derive from Chinese. For example, "bác", "chú", "dượng", and "cậu" are all terms ultimately derived from Chinese and all refer to different statuses of "uncle".
**With modernization and other trends, politeness language is evolving to be simpler. Avoiding the need for complex polite language can also motivate use in some situations of languages like Indonesian or English that have less complex respect systems or are more egalitarian.
These features strongly contrast with major language groups bordering East and Southeast Asia such as
Australian languages, Indo-Pacific languages, Paleosiberian languages, and Indo-European languages, as well as Afro-Asiatic languages. Some features loosely similar to some seen in many of the even more distant African languages, such as short, tonal morphemes and a large number of noun classes are likely to have originated independently.
Languages of East and Southeast Asia are classified into multiple
language families, signifying that there is currently no evidence that they all directly descended from a common ancestor. Therefore many of the common areal features are likely due to borrowing between neighboring languages over thousands of years, forming a sprachbund. The highest-level hypothesized families include:
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