Keynote lectures

SEALS29 features three keynote speakers:

  • Alexander Coupe
    Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
    "The Aoic languages in areal and typological perspective" [pdf]

  • Sumittra Suraratdecha
    Mahidol University, Thailand
    "Language revitalization, community engagement and social impacts" [pdf]

  • Hsiu-chuan Liao
    National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan
    "Another look at the clause structure in Philippine languages" [pdf]


Alexander Coupe

Hsiu-chuan Liao

Sumittra Suraratdecha

Day 1: May 27, 2018

The Aoic languages in areal and typological perspective

Alexander R. Coupe

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore


Aoic refers to a cluster of Tibeto-Burman languages spoken at the western extreme of the mainland Southeast Asia linguistic area and traditionally includes the major dialects of Ao (Chungli, Mongsen, Changki), the Lotha and Sangtam languages, and the various dialects of Yimkhiungrü (Langa, Tikhir, Wui, and possibly Makuri). These languages are typologically interesting for the fact that they demonstrate features characteristic of Southeast Asian languages (e.g. lexical tone systems, similar phonotactic constraints on syllable structure, rampant lexical compounding), but also show the heavy footprint of South Asian languages in their grammatical complexity (e.g. head-final features, non-finite clause chaining, tense marking, synthetic and agglutinative word formation, morphological causatives, relative-correlative constructions, inter alia). They are also significant for demonstrating a number of typological rarities, and thus have value for contributing to our understanding of the extent of linguistic diversity in the world’s languages.

     The multitude of tongues spoken in the mountains of the Indo-Burmese Arc has resulted in some notable contact effects, manifesting in the borrowing of grammatical morphemes and parts of pronominal paradigms that are generally considered to be highly resistant to borrowing, as well as structural convergence. Such developments are likely attributable historically to four influences: (i) the substratum influence of Indo-Aryan languages, such as Assamese and the closely related creole-like Nagamese; (ii) wholesale annexations by more powerful tribes migrating from the east and south, resulting in villages with separate populations speaking distinct native languages; (iii) the earlier practice of kidnapping women; and (iv), migrations of entire clans to other villages due to famine or intra-village conflicts. All of these factors may have contributed to the creation of bilingual villages and the resulting diffusion of features observed in the languages of the region.

     The paper will compare phonological systems and aspects of morphology and syntax in the Aoic languages to assess the basis for their subgrouping, as well as their peculiarities that have relevance for typology. Particular attention will be given to discussing linguistic features that characterize the Aoic languages, and those that distinguish them from their Konyak neighbours on the one hand, and the Kuki-Chin and Angami-Pochuri languages of southern Nagaland and adjacent regions on the other.

Day 2: May 28, 2018

Language revitalization, community engagement and social impacts

Sumittra Suraratdecha

Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia (RILCA)

Mahidol University, Thailand

This talk describes a participatory action research (PAR) approach to linguistic and cultural revitalization, taking a PAR project of a Black Tai community in Thailand as a case study. It gives a sketch of the history and current status of the Black Tai language and culture and the ways in which reclamation activities and restoration of their linguistic and cultural rights can enhance the well-being of the speakers and enable them to be proactive in taking charge of social problems leading to sustainable community development. The project targets younger generation, especially youth as primary stakeholder, partner, and beneficiary of the intergenerational transmission of Black Tai linguistic and cultural heritage. Linguistic and cultural heritage is seen as essentially an asset, an invaluable capital for self- and community development. To safeguard the vitality of Black Tai linguistic and cultural heritage, non-formal curricular developments are discussed with the community and accordingly implemented and evaluated. The curriculum is learner-driven and activity-based creating opportunities for local knowledge to be passed down from generation to generation through knowledge elicitation; restoring lost ties between generations; increasing interaction in homes and schools among community members of all generations. The research project showcases an alternative holistic approach to language revitalization; linking language culture and personal and community empowerment; language lives through actual every day use of it in society. The research outcome indicates that active engagement of local members is essential to the success of the intergenerational transmission of linguistic and cultural heritage leading to sustainable development of the whole community.

Day 3: May 29, 2018

Another Look at the Clause Structure in Philippine Languages

Hsiu-chuan Liao
National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan


Most, if not all, Austronesian languages spoken in the Philippines are commonly described as having a complex “(verbal) focus” or “voice” system with four or more “foci” or “voices”: (1) “Actor Focus (AF)”/ “actor voice (AV)”, (2) “Goal/Patient focus (GF)/ “Patient Voice (PV)”, (3) “Locative Focus (LF)”/ “Locative Voice (LV)”, and (4) “Theme Focus (TF), Instrumental Focus (IF), and Benefactive Focus (BF)” or “Conveyance/ Circumstantial Voice (CV)”.  (2) ~ (4) are often referred to as “Non-Actor Focus (NAF)”, “Non-Actor Voice (NAV)”, or “Undergoer Voice (UV)”.  Morphologically, AF/AV verbs and NAF/NAV verbs differ in that the former typically contain reflexes of PAn *<um>, PMP *maR-, and PMP *maN-, whereas the latter typically contain reflexes of PAn *-ən, *-an, and *Si- (PMP *hi-).  Syntactically, AF/AV constructions and NAF/NAV constructions differ in the choice of an actor or a non-actor as the ‘focused NP’ or ‘grammatical subject’.  However, such an analysis is not free of problems.  
     First, AF/AV morphology can be found in not only verbs that take an actor argument, but also verbs that do NOT take any actor at all, e.g. meteorological verbs (as in Tagalog bumagyó ‘It stormed; there’s a typhoon’; Ilokano nagbagió ‘It stormed’ (nag- is the perfective aspect of ag-)).
     Second, although reflexes of PAn *<um>, PMP *maR-, and PMP *maN- are all considered AV markers, they usually cannot be used interchangeably.  More specifically, not all bases can take all three forms of AV markers.  For those that can combine with more than one of them, the choice of different AV markers typically results in differences in interpretation (e.g. Tagalog kumain ‘to eat’ vs. magkaín/ magkakaín ‘to eat frequently’ vs. mangain ‘to eat small things or pieces of things one after another’; bumasa ‘to read, to peruse’ vs. magbasá ‘to study; to read much or intently’ (Pittman 1966:13; English 1987); bumilí ‘to buy; to purchase’ vs. mamilí ‘to go shopping; to make various purchases’ (English 1987), etc.).
     Third, two of these AV markers can occur on the same base simultaneously (e.g. Tagalog maghumiyaw ‘to shout at the top of one’s voice’, mag-umunat ‘to stretch one’s self to the limit’, mag-umiyak ‘to cry at the top of one’s voice’ (Pittman 1966:20)).  
     Fourth, AV markers and NAV markers can occur on the same base simultaneously (e.g. Kankanaey man-i-dawat ‘give (s.t.)’ (Allen 2014:120)).
     To solve the above problems, I propose that the difference between so-called “AF/AV” constructions and “NAF/NAV” constructions is in “event primacy” vs. “participant primacy”.  Moreover, reflexes of PAn *<um>, PMP *maR-, and PMP *maN- are used for signaling various types of event properties, whereas reflexes of PAn *-ən, *-an, and *Si- (PMP *hi-) are for signaling which participant is primarily affected by the action expressed by the predicate.  The proposed analysis can solve not only the above-mentioned problems but also explain why meteorological verbs with reflexes of PAn *<um> or PMP *maR- can only occur in a zero-place predicate construction, whereas meteorological verbs with reflexes of PAn *-ən, *<in>, and *-an can occur in a one-place predicate construction.