Historical and comparative linguistics started rather early in East and Mainland Southeast Asia, where a fledging Neogrammarian linguistics fruitfully cross-pollinated with sophisticated indigenous philology. It is uncontroversial, however, to declare the state of the field deeply unsatisfactory.
This slow progress is occasioned by closely related intrinsic and sociological factors. Faced with an objectively difficult situation, due to the radical pace of linguistic change in this part of the world and the paucity and ambiguity of ancient attestations, scholars flinched from the hope of eventual IE-level explanatory power to opt for less ambitious, “innovative” methodologies. The new methodologies do phylogenetics very well, but hardly explain any actual form in actual languages in a way which is customary for other families and regions. As a result, there is no etymological dictionaries for Sino-Tibetan and Mainland SEA languages of the same level of detail and rigour for any major languages of Europe, Near East or Northern America. Nor is it customary in the field to treat questions commonplace elsewhere, such as the evolution of particular vowel systems, the emergence of morphological patterns or the etymology of individual words.
It is the intention of this blog to publish my provisional research notes, in order to join the efforts of a new generation of Sino-Tibetanists and SEA linguists, and to promote a paradigmatic (counter-)revolution towards the rigour and sophistication of a classical comparative philology of grey-headed fuddy-duddy Frau (and Herr) Doktor Doktor’s.