Manusya, Journal of Humanities


Bernard Comrie

Publication Date



Mainland Southeast Asia has long been recognized as a classic example of a linguistic area, but earlier characterizations of this language area have typically been intuitive, for instance providing seemingly impressive lists of features known to be shared by Mainland Southeast Asian languages but without considering a list of features on which these languages differ, without explicitly considering the extent to which the features in question are common or rare across the world as a whole. By using the maps in the World Atlas of Language Structures, it is possible to build up a more structured assessment of the extent to which Mainland Southeast Asia constitutes a linguistic area. Many maps show a clear delimitation between Mainland Southeast Asia and the rest of Eurasia, although the precise boundary varies from map to map, as does the presence and location of intermediate zones. The dividing line between Mainland Southeast Asia and Insular Southeast Asia is much less clear-cut, thus providing some evidence for a more general Southeast Asian linguistic area.

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