Why is the V sound uncommon in many East and Southeast Asian languages

Nov 2015
591
Andromeda
Without V
Lao
Korean
Tibetan
Burmese
Japanese
Most Chinese languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, etc)

With V
Khmer
Mongolian
Vietnamese

Special Case
Thai has no V in it's language but seems to have it in proper nouns.

Unsure
Bahasa
Tagalog

Interestingly, two of the languages that do have a V sound are both Austroasiatic languages.
 
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Dreamhunter

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
7,480
Malaysia
Interestingly, two of the languages that do have a V sound are both Austroasiatic languages.
Malay does not hv the 'v' sound, for sure. Neither Tagalog, I believe. I wud say, both Malaysian Malay & Indonesian Malay very likely hv retained not a few words with either the 'b' or 'w' sound, which were originally borrowed from the 'v' of the Indic languages, like Sanskrit, Pali or Tamil.

For example, our word 'bulan' for 'moon', as I understand it, is derived from the Indic 'vulam' or 'vulan', which is of either Sanskrit, Pali or Tamil origin. In old Indonesian Malay, it's 'wulan', and is still even used for a woman's name over there.

While our word 'bangsa' for 'race' or 'nation', and 'wangsa' for 'dynasty', I believe is derived from the Indic 'vamsa', again of either Sanskrit, Pali or Tamil origin.

I wud suspect that in Khmer, even if the letter 'v' is used in their language, it is very likely of Indic origin, and it is pronounced rather lightly/softly, kind of more like a 'w' sound.

Indeed, the Asian 'v' sound, from Iran through India through to Vietnam, the 'v' sound is all mostly pronounced more like a 'w' sound, unlike in Western Europe. You just ask a Vietnamese looking person where they come from, and seven times out of ten you'll be hearing 'Wietnam' rather than 'Vietnam'.
 
Nov 2015
591
Andromeda
If that is the case, then that would leave Mongolian as the only language that does have a V sound (unless the Mongolian V is a modern adoption from Russian).

What you're saying is that Bahasa (Indonesian, Malay) underwent a V to B/W sound correspondence when borrowing words from Indic languages since the closest sounding letters to V were B or W. This is similar to how Arabic chooses the F sound to replace the V sound when borrowing English words (Very -> Feri). I believe that Korean also replaces the V sound for a B sound when borrowing English words (Very -> Beri). But are there any words with pure Vs in Indonesian and Malay?

I have noticed that many Desis (Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis) use the V and W sounds interchangeably, which I found interesting.

Is there any information out there that describes the reason for the lack of a V sound in many Eastern languages? This could probably be a good research topic for any academic linguists out there.
 
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Sep 2017
169
North America
Although most Chinese languages don't have the V consonant, they do have its corresponding voiceless counterpart the F consonant. The only Sinitic language which doesn't have the F consonant is the Min. And it's thought that Old Chinese and Early Middle Chinese also didn't have the F consonant.
 
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Sep 2013
172
planet earth
Without V
Lao
Korean
Tibetan
Burmese
Japanese
Most Chinese languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, etc)

With V
Khmer
Mongolian
Vietnamese

Special Case
Thai has no V in it's language but seems to have it in proper nouns.

Unsure
Bahasa
Tagalog

Interestingly, two of the languages that do have a V sound are both Austroasiatic languages.
interesting topic, in the khmer language the v sounding words are indigenous and influenced from external sources such as the indic language (sanskrit, pali) and french. i bet if one was to compare dictionaries of asian languages, khmer and vietnamese would have more v sounding words than the others.

some v sounding words in khmer. it's the bet spelling i can do using english alphabet.

vai=fight
vooung moul=circle
viebarth=crisis
verng=long
voehs=measure
 
Nov 2015
591
Andromeda
Although most Chinese languages don't have the V consonant, they do have its corresponding voiceless counterpart the F consonant.
The F consonant is fairly common though in East and Southeast Asia.

interesting topic, in the khmer language the v sounding words are indigenous and influenced from external sources such as the indic language (sanskrit, pali) and french. i bet if one was to compare dictionaries of asian languages, khmer and vietnamese would have more v sounding words than the others.
Is the V also native in Vietnamese? Given that they're both Austroasiatic.
 
Nov 2015
591
Andromeda
Yet neither Korean nor Japanese have the F consonant (The so-called Japanese F is pronounced more like an H). Mongolian has F, but it is very rare and it only occurs in loanwords.
Personally, the Japanese F sounds more like a true F than a H to me.
Korean does not have the F for sure. Korean phonology doesn't seem to like fricatives seeing that there is an absence of the F, V and Z consonants.

The only Sinitic language which doesn't have the F consonant is the Min.
It seems hard to imagine a Chinese language without an F, since it is one of the main distinctive features for me.
 
Sep 2017
169
North America
Personally, the Japanese F sounds more like a true F than a H to me.
That's probably because you're korean and there is no F in your native language, so you couldn't tell the difference. But for me, their F really sounds like an H, while the Chinese F is a true F.

For example in this video, when the japanese girl said "head phone", I heard it like "heado hon".

 
Sep 2017
169
North America
It seems hard to imagine a Chinese language without an F, since it is one of the main distinctive features for me.
It is true that the Min variety doesn't have the F. For example, in the case of the word for wind, nearly all Chinese varieties pronounce it with a F initial (Mandarin "feng", Cantonese "fung"), but the Min variety pronounce it with an H initial ("hong" or "huang").

And linguists thought that Old Chinese and Early Middle Chinese didn't have F; it's a consonant that appeared in Late Middle Chinese. Just to give you an example, again with the word for wind, the reconstructed Old Chinese pronunciation is "plum", and the reconstructed Early Middle Chinese pronunciation is "pjung". (The korean word for wind "param" has an uncanny resemblance to the Old Chinese form "plum")

Min is thought to be the only variety of Chinese that contains traces from Old Chinese, while all the other varieties are descended from Middle Chinese.