Journal of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society (JSEALS)

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JSEALS is the peer-reviewed journal of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society, and is devoted to publishing research on the languages of mainland and insular Southeast Asia. JSEALS was formally established by decision of the SEALS 17 meeting, held at the University of Maryland in September 2007. It supersedes the Conference Proceedings, previously published by Arizona State University and later by Pacific Linguistics.


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  • ItemOpen Access
    Journal of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society (JSEALS)
    (Department of Linguistics School of Culture, History and Language, College of Asia and the Pacific The Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, AUSTRALIA) Southeast Asian Linguistics Society (SEALS)
    JSEALS is the peer-reviewed open-access electronic journal of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society (SEALS). In 2009 it superseded the Society's Conference Proceedings published by Arizona State University. Devoted to a region of extraordinary linguistic diversity, JSEALS features papers on the languages of Southeast Asia, including Austroasiatic, Austronesian, Hmong-Mien, Tibeto-Burman and Tai-Kadai. JSEALS welcomes contributions written in English that deal with general and applied linguistic issues (as opposed to cultural or anthropological topics) which further the lively debate that characterizes the annual SEALS conferences since 1991. JSEALS articles are published continuously online, with each year's papers constituting a single volume. Between 2009 and 2016 it was maintained by Asia-Pacific Linguistics Open Access (formerly Pacific Linguistics) ( and archived by ANU Open Research ( to be hosted at Published articles are indexed by Scopus.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Review of Dictionary of Kammu of Yùan Language and Culture, by Jan-Olof Svantesson, Kàm (Damrong Tayanin) Ràw, Kristina Lindell, and Håkan Lundström
    (Asia-Pacific Linguistics, 2016) Alves, Mark J
    The Dictionary of Kammu of Yùan Language and Culture (Kopenhagen: NIAS Press 2014. XXXVI, 462 S. m. Abb. 4°. Hartbd. ISBN 978-87-7694-116-1) is a pleasingly decorated, large (roughly size A paper), tan, hard-cover reference with clear black print inside but also with numerous vivid drawings referring to lexical entries exemplifying aspects of Kammu culture. A majority of the 700,000 speakers of the Austroasiatic Kammu (also spelled ‘Khmu’) language live in Laos but also nearby areas of China, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam. However, as the authors state, 'This dictionary records the Yùan dialect of Kammu, spoken in the southern part of Luang Namtha Province in northern Laos.'
  • ItemOpen Access
    Clefts and anti-superiority in Moken
    (Asia-Pacific Linguistics, 2016-07) Baclawski Jr., Kenneth; Jenks, Peter
    We describe an extraction asymmetry in Moken that presents apparent Anti-Superiority effects. We then show that this asymmetry is not rooted in Superiority at all. Evidence from island effects is used to demonstrate that the left-dislocation of wh-phrases is not the result of wh-movement as standardly conceived. Furthermore, the same Anti-Superiority effect obtains for non-wh-phrases and clefts. At the same time, standard Superiority effects in Moken do arise in certain environments. These observations lead to the conclusion that Anti-Superiority effects in Moken are not counterexamples to the universality of Superiority, but instead arise due to a constraint on crossed dependencies between arguments and non-argument positions.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Complexities of tonal realisation in a right-dominant Chinese Wu dialect - disyllabic tone sandhi in a speaker form Wencheng
    (Asia-Pacific Linguistics, 2016-03) Rose, Phil
    An acoustically-based description is given of the isolation tones and right-dominant tone sandhi in disyllabic words of a male speaker of the Chinese Oūjiāng 甌江 Wú吳dialect of Wénchéng 文成. His seven isolation tones show typical Wu complexity, comprising two mid-level, two rising, two falling-rising and one depressed level pitch shapes. Typical too is his three-way voicing contrast in syllable-Onset stops. However, the typical Wu relationship between tonal register and phonemic Onset voicing is shown to be disrupted, Onset voicing no longer correlating with tonal pitch height. The word-final tones in sandhi are shown to be straightforwardly related, phonologically and phonetically, to the isolation tones, with biuniqueness preserved. The realization of the word-initial tones in sandhi, on the other hand, involves complex mergers conditioned by largely non-phonetic factors related to historical tone categories, resulting in five extra sandhi tones that do not occur in isolation. It is suggested that they not be related phonologically to the isolation tones. The historical implications of the patterns are also briefly explored.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Complexities of Thai copular constructions
    (Asia-Pacific Linguistics, 2015-12) Wongwattana, Unchalee S
    This article presents an analysis of syntactic and pragmatic characteristics of copular constructions in Thai with both elicited data and data taken from naturally occurring texts. In this article, we claim that Thai presents copular-construction complexities. We have found that there are a number of verbs such as pen, jùː, kʰɨː, dâːjkὲː and tɕʰâj functioning as copulas. They not only link subject and non-verbal predicates but also verbal predicates that normally form predicates on their own. Not all of these copulas can freely carry verbal features to copular clauses. We also illustrate that Thai copular constructions can be best accounted for in terms of pragmatic interpretations. While the copulas pen and jùː are predicational, kʰɨː and dâːjkὲː convey non-predicational readings. The copula dâːjkὲː is a variation of kʰɨː in specificational readings. In contexts other than declarative statements, the copula tɕʰâj is preferable to the others available in COP-NP constructions. In addition, copular omission is allowed in either some clausal structures subject to verbal features or certain pragmatic environments.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Linguistic watersheds: a model for understanding variation among the Tibetic languages
    (Asia-Pacific Linguistics, 2015-12) Chamberlain, Brad
    This study applies the observation of alignment between geographical watersheds and linguistic groupings to the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas. Tournadre (2014) estimates 220 Tibetic language varieties in 25 major groupings, sharing a common linguistic ancestry. Typological groupings can be readily identified through mapping human settlements to watersheds. For areas that have yet to be researched, consistent hypotheses for typological groupings can be arrived at. Next to explaining anomalous data within a particular area or how certain linguistic features spread, a watershed-based map identifies possible linguistic areas to be researched. The concept is applied in detail to the watersheds and languages of Bhutan and then expanded out to the broader Tibetan region.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Vowel height and register assignment in Katuic
    (Asia-Pacific Linguistics, 2015) Gehrmann, Ryan
    As has been previously demonstrated in the literature on Katuic (Ferlus 1974a, Diffloth 1982, Sidwell 2005), there are languages in the Katuic language family, an Austroasiatic sub-branch, with register systems whose emergence cannot be comprehensively explained in terms of the classical model of registrogenesis (also called the Khmer model). These include the Pacoh and Ta’oi languages. In this article, I will present evidence that registrogenesis began in these languages in the prototypical way, but register contrast within the Proto-Katuic monophthong height series was subsequently neutralized along a particular pattern; all close vowels merged to lax register and all open vowels merged to tense register. This phenomenon is related to the restructuring of tense close vowels and lax open vowels in many register Austroasiatic languages in that tense close vowels and lax open vowels are eliminated in both cases. The origins of register development in these languages were thus obscured and subsequent vowel shifts reintroduced register contrasts that no longer correspond with proto-language initial consonant voicing. I present evidence from other Katuic languages that indicate the plausibility of these kinds of changes and, finally, I incorporate this vowel height-induced register reorganization into the classical model of registrogenesis, expanding its explanatory power to include languages that have undergone register neutralization within their vowel height series.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Etyma for 'chicken', 'duck', and 'goose' among language phyla in China and Southeast Asia
    (Asia-Pacific Linguistics, 2015) Alves, Mark J
    This paper considers the history of words for domesticated poultry, including ‘chicken’, ‘goose’, and ‘duck’, in China and mainland Southeast Asia to try to relate associated domestication events with specific language groups. Linguistic, archaeological and historical evidence supports Sinitic as one linguistic source, but in other cases, Tai and Austroasiatic form additional centers of lexical forms which were borrowed by neighboring phyla. It is hypothesized that these geographic regions of etyma for domesticated birds may represent instances of bird domestication, or possibly advances in bird husbandry, by speech communities in the region in the Neolithic Era, followed by spread of both words and cultural practices.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Negatives between Chamic and Bahnaric
    (Asia-Pacific Linguistics, 2015) Van Der Auwera, Johan; Vossen, Frens
    The paper deals with the verb embracing double negation found in both Chamic and Bahnaric languages and with the question how it developed. We propose both an internal and external explanation. The former relates to what is called a ‘Jespersen Cycle’, a hypothesis about the renewal of single negation out of double negation, itself developing out of another single negation. The latter is language interference from Chamic to Bahnaric. We argue that the Jespersen Cycle hypothesis is more plausible for Chamic, thus revisiting Lee (1996), and that the language contact hypothesis makes more sense for Bahnaric, thus supporting a more general hypothesis about the direction of interference between the two families (Sidwell 2008: 261, 265).
  • ItemOpen Access
    Information structure and voice alternation in Kalanguya
    (Asia-Pacific Linguistics, 2015-07) Santiago, Paul Julian
    Kalanguya is a Southern Cordilleran language spoken in northern Philippines. Like other Philippine languages, it has a voice system in which the semantic role of an argument is specified by the affix attached to the verb. The paper examines the choice of the voice type in connection with the information status of the participants involved, and looks closely into the correlation between information structure and voice alternation. It will be argued that the topicality and givenness of participants are indicated not just by NP markers but also by voice affixes. Two types of antipassive, which have been given little attention by previous works on the voice system of Philippine languages, will be proposed and explored. Through showing that different grammatical and pragmatic strategies, one of which is alternating between the antipassive and transitive, are used to signal the information status of referents, this paper highlights the importance of discourse-based analysis in studying the properties of the voice system of Philippine-type languages.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Evidentiality in Lamjung Yolmo
    (Asia-Pacific Linguistics, 2014-12) Gawne, Lauren
    Lamjung Yolmo is a Tibeto-Burman language of the Bodish branch spoken in Nepal. Like related languages it has a verbal system that includes evidential distinctions. In this paper I look at the role of these evidentials in interaction, and in relation to other features of grammar. These features include their relationship to events, interaction with subject person, endopathic verbs and negative polarity. I also look at constructions with no overt evidential marking, and evidential elision, to give a more rounded representation of the role of evidentiality for speakers of Lamjung Yolmo, and explore its role in audience perception of utterances.
  • ItemOpen Access
    An analysis of Muak Sa-aak tone
    (Asia-Pacific Linguistics, 2014-04) Hall, Elizabeth
    Muak Sa-aak is a tonal Angkuic language spoken in Eastern Shan state of Myanmar, belonging to the Austroasiatic family. It has three contrastive tones: a falling tone, a low tone, and a constricted tone with two allotones. Syllable structure and tone are closely linked, seen by restrictions on the occurrence of tones with certain syllable structures. Angkuic languages do not appear to develop tone through the loss of an initial consonant voicing distinction, as they instead underwent a shift where proto-voiceless initial tenuis stops became aspirated and proto-voiced consonants were devoiced (Svantesson 1988); it instead is connected with vowel length contrast (Svantesson 1988, Diffloth 1991). None the less, Muak Sa-aak preserves vowel length contrast despite the development of tone. It is argued that Muak Sa-aak tonogenesis is motivated by both vowel length and final consonants.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Thematic progression of Thai Song Dam folktales
    (Asia-Pacific Linguistics, 2013-10) Pattama Patpong
    This paper reports on an investigation of Thai Song Dam folktales which is a linguistic part of "Textual data management of Thai Song Dam Ethnic Group". It draws on Systemic Functional Linguistics to investigate the discourse structure of ten Thai Song Dam folktales. The paper explores thematic progression patterns in Thai Song Dam folktales spoken in Thailand. The thematic progression is associated with the method of text development which is based on the typical thematic selection realized by unmarked and marked topical Themes (cf. Fries, 1981/1983, 1995a, 1995b). In this current study, patterns of thematic progression are explored as a way of revealing the textual organization of the folktales and the local progression achieved by the thematic selection of successive clauses (cf. Daneš (1974)). The data for this study were drawn from ten Thai Song Dam folktales. They were taken from secondary sources (e.g., folklore researches’ appendices, Thai Song Dan folktale collections). Based on Daneš's notion of thematic progression, patterns of Theme selection were explored. The study revealed that the most frequent pattern of thematic progression selected in the ten folktales was the continuous or constant Theme expressed by unmarked topical Themes. Both ellipsed and non-ellipsed unmarked topical Themes were selected and repeated as the point of departure of each clause. The second most frequent pattern is linear Theme pattern. The study also revealed that the primary methods of folktale development are those of temporal and spatial organizations.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Expanding the PAn consonant inventory
    (Asia-Pacific Linguistics, 2013-10) Norquest, Peter; Downey, Sean
    This paper provides evidence for three Proto Austronesian (PAn) phonemes that are preserved in several distinct languages and subgroups. These include distinctions between *p and *f, *l and *ɭ, and *k and *g. In addition, we assert that there is expanded evidence in Malayo-Polynesian for two currently recognized phonemes: *ʈ (PAn *C) and *c; evidence for the former has been restricted until now to the Formosan languages, and for the latter to a small group of languages in western Indonesia. These contrasts can be found in Nias (one of the Barrier Island languages off the northwest coast of Sumatra), Dohoi (a Northwest Barito subgroup of Borneo), the Western Central Malayo-Polynesian languages of Bimanese, Hawu, Dhao, Western Oceanic, and more sparsely in languages of North Sarawak, the Philippines, and Sumba. The findings presented in this paper highlight the importance of the above languages and subgroups for PAn reconstruction, and the new phonemes presented here are placed within the context of a wider PAn inventory which includes a total of seven places of articulation.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Plurality in Naxi and its typological implications
    (Asia-Pacific Linguistics, 2013-09) Chang, Ya-Yin Melody; Law, Paul; Zhao, Qing-Lian
    Plurality in Naxi can be explicitly expressed by suffixation or tone change on common nouns denoting human beings. This paper complements the published literature in providing a detailed description of its morpho-syntax and semantics of plurality. It shows that Naxi belongs to the typologically rare type of language in which the coding of plurality and definiteness is in one morpheme, the other three languages known to date to have this property are Chinese, Khmer and Maori. Evidence for the definiteness property of explicit plurality comes from it being excluded in syntactic environments in which definiteness noun phrases are ruled out. It is argued that the empirical basis of Greenberg’s (1974) generalization regarding the relation between numeral classifiers and compulsory expression of nominal plurality is subject to the interpretation of explicit expression of plurality. If it is taken to embody in a morpheme (or a set of morphemes) specifically for expressing plurality, then Naxi is consistent with Greenberg’s claim that languages with numeral classifiers do not have compulsory expression of plurality on nouns.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Aspects in Fengshun Hakka spoken In Thailand: Perfective, Experiential, and Inchoative
    (Asia-Pacific Linguistics, 2013-05) Wichaya, Bovonwiwat
    This research is part of my dissertation ‘A Study of Hakka Aspectual System’ for Mahidol University and Thailand Research Fund. It aims to explain the syntactic and semantic structures of Perfective, Experiential, and Inchoative aspects of Fengshun Hakka spoken in Thailand. The Hakka aspectual system generally can be divided into two major categories: bounded and unbounded. According to Chappell (1989a, b), the bounded aspect refers to an event containing either the beginning or the end point, while the unbounded aspect refers to an event without a time limit. The bounded situations can be subcategorized into Perfective, Experiential, and Inchoative aspects. To add an interesting view to this study, the Miaoli Hakka dialect spoken in Taiwan, Jieyang Chaozhou, and Mandarin have been compared with the Fengshun dialect to point out real characteristics of the Hakka aspectual system. The comparison with the Miaoli dialect spoken in Taiwan demonstrates how the three bounded aspects of the two Hakka dialects are expressed. The language contact with Chaozhou in Fengshun Hakka is probably pointed out as one factor by which the bounded aspects in Fengshun Hakka are distinguished from those in the Miaoli dialect.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The language shift in progress of Thai Song
    (Asia-Pacific Linguistics, 2013-02) Somsonge Burusphat
    The research question of this paper is: To what extent has the Thai Song language been influenced by the Thai language? The finding of this question is obtained by a sociolinguistic study of phonological variation and lexical replacement among Thai Song speakers of three age groups: old generation (over 60), middle generation (35-55), and young generation (18-30). Thai Song speakers residing at two locations in Nakhon Pathom province are selected as a case study of Thai Song in the western region of Thailand. The study of phonological variation reveals that Thai Song has progressively shifted to Thai in the speech of middle and young generations. The study of lexical replacement shows that young generation speakers use fewer Thai Song words than the older generations.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The history of postverbal agreement in Kuki-Chin
    (Asia-Pacific Linguistics, 2013-02) DeLancey, Scott
    In the Kuki-Chin branch of Tibeto-Burman we find both a widespread prefixal verb agreement paradigm and, in many languages, a distinct, competing postverbal agreement system. It is clear, and generally acknowledged, that the prefixal system is a KC innovation, while the postverbal system traces back to Proto-Tibeto-Burman. This paper assembles the evidence for the postverbal paradigm from the conservative Northern Chin, Old Kuki, and Southern Chin subbranches, and makes some suggestions toward a preliminary reconstruction of the paradigm in Proto-Kuki-Chin. The older paradigm has been lost in the Central Chin (e.g. Mizo) and Mara languages, but the older 2nd person index has been incorporated into the modern paradigms
  • ItemOpen Access
    Planning and implementing Patani Malay in bilingual education in southern Thailand
    (Asia-Pacific Linguistics, 2012-07-01) Suwilai Premsrirat; Uniansasmita Samoh
    In this article, the authors discuss a mother tongue-based bilingual education (MTB BE) program designed to use Patani Malay (PM) or Thailand Melayu, as well as Thai, in the teaching and learning process at the preprimary and primary level, which is the level of compulsory education in Thailand. Many fear that the Thai education system is being used to destroy the local language and religious identity. In response to these fears, an attempt to use PM in bilingual education in southern border provinces of Thailand was proposed as a way to improve the situation. The PM speaking children are encouraged to retain their Malay identity at the local level and to add a Thai identity at the national level, as discussed in this paper.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Relative clauses in Xong (Miao-Yao)
    (Asia-Pacific Linguistics, 2012-07-01) Sposato, Adam
    This paper provides an overview of relative clause constructions in Xong (Miao-Yao). Xong features an unusual number of distinct relative clause types, including some that obligatorily precede their head noun, others that obligatorily follow it, and still others that occur in either position. They occur with zero, one, or two relative clause markers. These formal variations are often accompanied by varying restrictions on possible roles of the head noun. Typologically rare aspects of Xong relative clauses – including pre-head relative clauses in a VO language, and pre-head relative clauses marked with an initial relativizing particle – are also discussed
Open Access