Some thoughts of the problem of the Austro-Asiatic homeland
Ilia Peiros (Santa Fe Institute (New Mexico, USA),
Journal of Language Relationship, № 6, 2011 - p.101-114
In a recent publication (“The Austroasiatic central riverine hypothesis”, JLR 4), Paul Sidwell came up with a new conception of what he considers to be the optimal localization of the original homeland of the Proto-Austro-Asiatic language: the Mekong valley in and around Indochina. The current paper is written in response to Sidwell’s conclusions. These are, first of all, evaluated from a strictly linguistic (lexicostatistical) point of view, and then compared with some of the available evidence on the most likely geographical distribution, cultural and ecological status, and ethnic surroundings of speakers of Proto-Austro-Asiatic. It is concluded that the overall complex of available data much more often contradicts Sidwell’s theory than confirms it, and that, consequently, there is no need to abandon the older hypothesis of a mid-Yangtze valley homeland for Austro-Asiatic (Peiros & Shnirelman), nor is there sufficient evidence to rearrange previously offered models of the internal classification of Austro-Asiatic languages (Diffloth; Peiros) in order to better accommodate the «central riverine» speculation.
Keywords: Austroasiatic, comparative method, lexicostatistics, linguistic homeland.