Plenary Sessions

Linguistic Fieldwork in a Changing Southeast Asia

Fieldwork on understudied languages has always been an eminent part in the study of linguistic diversity in SEA. The great body of field data produced in the past several decades has been a propelling force essential to the advancement of SEA linguistics a whole. However, the coming years will be an era of great dynamicity and complexity. Academically, new theoretical ideas and exciting technology are pushing the boundary of our understanding of language further and further. Socio-culturally, politically, and economically, the approaching 2015 integration of ASEAN is opening up new possibilities for fieldwork but also posing new challenges for the study of linguistic diversity of the region. This panel addresses future directions for linguistic fieldwork amid this rapidly changing region.


1. What research issues will future linguistic fieldwork need to be addressed in the coming years?
2. How new technology is transforming linguistic fieldwork in SEA?
3. How will the sociocultural, political, and economic changes resulting from the ASEAN integration impact the linguistic diversity and linguistic fieldwork in SEA?


1. Marc Brunelle (University of Ottawa)
2. Mathias Jenny (University of Zurich)
3. Nick Enfield (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and Radboud University)
4. Daniel Kaufman (CUNY and the Endangered Language Alliance)

Going beyond history: Re-assessing genetic groupings in SEA

SEA is one of the world’s regions with greatest linguistic diversity comprising five well-established language families: Austroasiatic, Austronesian, Hmong-Mien, Kra-Dai (formerly known as Tai-Kadai), and Sino-Tibetan. However, controversies about deeper genealogical relationships among these phyla the area have not been satisfactorily settled due to lack of fresh fieldwork data as well as the intensive and prolonged language contact in the area. The situation is changing as more data has become available and new ideas have been circulated. In addition to classic proposals such as the Austric hypothesis, the Austro-Thai hypothesis, more recent ones including the Sino-Austronesian hypothesis (STAN) have opened up new perspectives and debates on the issue. This special panel brings together experts representing the linguistic phyla of SEA as well as outsider perspectives. It aims to access past research and addresses prospects on the diachronic relationship among the SEA language families and between them and language families farther afield.

For Sagart's work on STAN, please visit


1. Are the lexical, phonological, and grammatical similarities among Sino-Tibetan, Austronesian, and Kra-Dai best explained in terms of genetic or contact relationship?
2. What progress has been made in understanding the deeper diachronic relations, genetic or otherwise, among these three language families?
3. What are the prospects for investigating possible diachronic relations between these families and languages farther afield, e.g. Japanese Austro-Tai? 
4. What are the future directions toward uncovering the prehistoric relationships among the great language families of SEA?


1. Zev Handel (University of Washington)
2. Daniel Kaufman (CUNY and the Endangered Language Alliance)
3. Weera Ostapirat (Mahidol University)
4. Martha Raliff (Wayne State University)


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Department of Linguistics, Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, Phayathai Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330