A hypothetical phylum
of languages of South-East Asia
. It was proposed in 1906 by Wilhelm Schmidt
, who grouped the Malayo-Polynesian and Austroasiatic
families together. He also coined the modern term Austronesian
to replace Malayo-Polynesian. The Austroasiatic family includes Khmer
and a scattering of languages from Cambodia into India. The Austric hypothesis is not generally accepted, but smaller groupings of known families are possible.
In addition to these two families, South-East Asia also includes (1) Sino-Tibetan languages (Chinese, Tibetan, Burmese, and many others), (2) Tai-Kadai languages (Thai and Lao account for about two-thirds of the 100 million speakers of Tai-Kadai, which extends up into southern China), (3) Hmong-Mien languages, formerly called Miao-Yao, and (4) Vietnamese. These all appear superficially similar, but this is now believed to be in large part influence from Chinese languages.
Modern versions of the Austric hypothesis, dating from Paul Benedict's work in 1942, link Tai-Kadai with Austronesian. He proposed an Austro-Thai macrofamily in 1966. This is now written Austro-Tai: the spelling Tai (or Taic or Daic) is used for the whole family of which Thai is the largest member.
Others have tried to link Japanese to it, and rather less plausibly Sumerian.
Vietnamese is often considered a Mon-Khmer language, one of the two branches of Austroasiatic. It is the supposed link between this family and the hypothesized Austro-Tai group that is weakest.