History of the MKS Journal

David Thomas
(Mahidol University and SIL International)

In the spring of 1963 seven young SIL linguists - John and Betty Banker, John and Carolyn Miller, Dick and Sandy Watson, and myself - held a three month workshop in the city of Hue, studying and writing up aspects of the Bahnar, Bru (then written as Brôu), and Pacoh languages. At the end of the workshop, realizing that there was no ready outlet for publication of those papers, we decided to go ahead and publish them ourselves, adding to them a previous paper of mine.

About the same time the Linguistic Circle of Saigon (LCS) was formed to encourage the development of the fledgling field of linguistics in Vietnam. The nucleus of the group was fresh young linguists like Nguyễn Ðình Hòa, Nguyễn Ðang Liêm, Milton Barker, David and Henry Blood, and other SILers, plus the maturer wisdom of Lê Van Lý and Nguyễn Khác Kham. So it seemed appropriate to put our volume of papers from Hue under the joint sponsorship of SIL and the LCS, giving the volume the optimistic title of Mon-Khmer Studies I. Thus was born MKS in 1964.

Not long thereafter Nguyễn Ðình Hòa, then Dean of the Faculty of Letters at the University of Saigon, assumed the editorship of Van-Hóa Nguyêt-San, a monthly cultural journal, and he wanted to use this as a vehicle for popularizing linguistics in Vietnam. So we made an agreement that SIL members would try to provide him with one article each month, and he would print a number of extra copies (500?) of each of those articles for binding together later. The articles from that first year were duly collected and bound in 1966 and called Mon-Khmer Studies II.

In the meantime, however, SIL opened a research center in Kontum, so a preliminary edition of MKS II was mimeographed and presented on the occasion of the inauguration of the center. This preliminary edition contained most of the articles of the final edition.

The arrangement with Van-Hóa Nguyêt-San continued, but in the middle of the following year Nguyễn Ðình Hòa left for the United States, and after his departure the journal floundered, appearing only at long intervals. So eventually we took the offprints of the articles that had been published, printed separately other articles that were ready, and combined them as MKS III in 1969.

Nguyễn Ðình Hòa was by then directing the Center for Vietnamese studies at Southern Illinois University, so our next volume, MKS IV, was a cooperative project of SIU and SIL, printed by SIU in 1973.

With the political changes in Vietnam in 1975 foreigners had to leave, so most SILers went temporarily to the Philippines. While there we put together whatever linguistic papers we had in draft and called it MKS V (published in 1976). The volume included a significant article on Bru drafted a few years earlier by John and Carolyn Miller and Richard Phillips, all three of whom were detained in 1975 and we didnt know if we would ever see them again, so we published their article in absentia. (Fortunately they were later released.) The SIL Vietnam members then dispersed to various parts of the world.

Philip N. Jenner then arranged for sponsorship of MKS by the University of Hawaii and he single-handedly and very capably took on the editorship duties, frequently working on it until late at night. (No doubt he would have many tales to tell of those days.) Volumes of articles nos. VI, VII, and VIII appeared promptly in 1977, 1978, and 1979. MKS IX-X, in 1980-81, set a precedent both by being a combined number and by being a single monograph rather than a collection of articles. It was entitled A Lexicon of Khmer Morphology by Philip N. Jenner and Saveros Pou. MKS XI, in 1982, was again a collection of articles.

In 1983, as Philip Jenner was retiring from the University of Hawaii, Marybeth Clark took over the editorship from him, and together they produced MKS XII. Starting with MKS Vol. XIII-XIV Stephen O'Harrow of the University of Hawaii took over the editorship of the series, reprinting Laurence Thompson's Vietnamese Grammar as part of the MKS series.

For Vol. XV (1989) he invited me and Mahidol University scholars Suriya Ratanakul and Suwilai Premsrirat to assist in the editing and preparation of the camera copy. Then for Vol. XVI-XVII (1990) the Mahidol group took over the major editing responsibility.

Differences with the University of Hawaii Press led to a major reorganization of MKS such that the University of Hawaii completely ceased its participation in MKS as of Vol. XVIII-XIX (1992). So SIL International of Dallas, Texas, became the publisher of Mon-Khmer Studies in cooperation with the Institute of Language and Culture for Rural Development, of Mahidol University (Thailand), as it is to this day, from Volume 20 on.