A polyphyletic understanding of Asian linguistic diversity was first propagated in 1823. Since 1901, various scholars have proposed larger linguistic phyla uniting two or more recognised Asian language families. The most recent proposal in this tradition, Starosta’s 2001 East Asian phylum, comprising the Trans-Himalayan, Hmong-Mien, Austroasiatic, Austronesian and Kradai language families, is reassessed in light of linguistic and non-linguistic evidence. Ethnolinguistically informed inferences based on Asian Y chromosomal phylogeography lead to a reconstruction of various episodes of ethnolinguistic prehistory which lie beyond the linguistic event horizon, i.e. at a time depth empirically inaccessible to historical linguistics. The Father Tongue correlation in population genetics, the evidence for refugia during the Last Glacial Maximum and the hypothesis of language families having arisen as the result of demographic bottlenecks in prehistory are shown to be crucial to an understanding of the ethnogenesis of East Asian linguistic phyla. The prehistory of several neighbouring Asian language families is discussed, and the Centripetal Migration model is opposed to the Farming Language Dispersal theory.