The origin of the various languages of Southeastern Asia is veiled by the same mist, broken by only occasional glimmers of light, which hides from the ethnologist and even the historian the steps by which the territory was populated, its culture diffused. Nevertheless, a rough outline appears practicable.

Among the most ancient inhabitants of the area are the various tribes of Negritos, the Eta, the Semang, and the Andaman Islanders. One of their characteristics, in this region just as in Africa, seems to be that, with the exception of but one group, they everywhere abandoned their original language and adopted in its place that spoken by their respective neighbors, that is, the Sakai, Malayan, or African Negro dialects.

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