Sociocultural Influences on Linguistic Geography: Religion and Language in Southeast Asia

Reference work entry


The aim of this chapter is to discuss the influences of sociocultural and historical factors, such as religion, on language and the development of linguistic areas. It is argued that the importance of sociocultural factors in areal linguistics is under-researched. This is the case especially for religion. This chapter discusses such sociocultural factors on the example of the linguistic area Mainland and Insular Southeast Asia (MSEA and ISEA). It is shown that early migration, as well as the cultural and linguistic heritage, brought to MSEA together with Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism, needs to be considered. It is argued that extralinguistic factors, such as religion and politics, greatly influence conceptualization and consequently language usage. This can lead to linguistic areas, developed on the basis of, for example, religious practices. As a result, extralinguistic factors provide a rich field for future research in linguistic geography and areal studies, which holds the potential of a better understanding of the intertwined relation between language and nonlinguistic factors.


Language areas, Sociocultural factors, Religion, Linguistic geography, ISO 639-3 codes: lao, khm, tha, vie, chi, ind 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ludwig Maximilians University MunichMunichGermany
  2. 2.Department of English and LinguisticsJohannes Gutenberg University MainzMainzGermany

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