Dr Tim Bodt

Key information

Roles
British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellow
Qualifications
BSc, MSc, PhD
Building
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address
tb47@soas.ac.uk

Biography

Tim Bodt was educated at Wageningen University, where he studied Environmental Economics and Social Forestry. He has had a life-long fascination with the Eastern Himalayan region, and in particular with the Bhutan-India-Tibet borderlands, a region traditionally known as ‘Monyul’. His interest in this region brought him into early contact with Prof. Dr. George van Driem (Berne University, Switzerland) and Prof. Dr. Nathan W. Hill (SOAS, London) who were instrumental in nurturing his aspirations in linguistics. He spent most of the last two decades in various Himalayan countries. He did both his BSc and MSc thesis research in Bhutan, followed by a year working for an INGO in Tibet, two years teaching at the then only college in Bhutan, and he spent intermittent periods in Nepal and India. In addition to his native Dutch, Tim is fluent in English and Tshangla, a language spoken in eastern Bhutan and adjacent regions, and is also conversant in Dzongkha (the national language of Bhutan), Tibetan, Nepali, Hindi, Duhumbi and German, in addition to having some basic knowledge of French and Tawang Monpa (Dakpa).

Between 2012 and 2017, Tim Bodt described the Duhumbi (Chugpa) language spoken in western Arunachal Pradesh, India, under the auspices of prof. Dr. George van Driem. His resulting doctoral dissertation was awarded the predicate ‘summa cum laude’. This dissertation was published by Brill in 2020. He also published a storybook and a dictionary on the Duhumbi language.

Tim Bodt joined SOAS in September 2018 as a postdoctoral researcher funded through a Swiss National Science Foundation’s Postdoc Mobility grant. His postdoctoral research focuses on the reconstruction of Proto-Western Kho-Bwa, the hypothetical ancestral language of the Western Kho-Bwa languages Duhumbi, Khispi, Sartang and Sherdukpen (Tibeto-Burman), all spoken in western Arunachal Pradesh in India. This reconstruction is now nearing completion.

Tim Bodt is continuing as a British Academy postdoctoral fellow at SOAS. He will be exploring the notion that Kusunda, a language isolate spoken by a single person in Nepal, was once more widespread in the Himalayan region. Part of his work involves the further analysis of the recordings he and his Nepalese research counterpart Mr. Uday Raj Aaley made in 2019 of the then last two Kusunda speakers.

Research interests

Tim Bodt’s research focuses on the ethnolinguistic history and diversity of the area traditionally known as Monyul, i.e., the Tibet-Bhutan-India borderlands. In addition to his grammatical description of Duhumbi (Chugpa), a Western Kho-Bwa language spoken in Arunachal Pradesh, and his reconstruction of Proto-Western Kho-Bwa, his main fascination lies with the Tshangla people and their language. His interest is not just limited to linguistic description and documentation for academic purposes, but he also strongly supports the speech community’s goals and aspirations for the preservation, promotion, and revitalisation of their languages. Tim is also a strong advocate of digital storage of, and open access to, acquired data.

At SOAS, Tim Bodt has reconstructed Proto-Western Kho-Bwa, the hypothetical ancestor language of the Western Kho-Bwa languages Duhumbi, Khispi, Sartang and Sherdukpen (Tibeto-Burman). For this bottom-up approach to historical linguistics, he used his own primary field data, establishing regular sound correspondences and reconstructing proto-forms for a large set of concepts. He combined the traditional, manual method of language comparison and a more innovative, computerised approach that has proven to be very fruitful. The 18-month postdoctoral project was financially supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation through Postdoc Mobility grant P2BEP1_181779.

At present, Tim Bodt is at SOAS on a British Academy postdoctoral fellowship. His current project aims to explore the idea that (languages related to) Kusunda, a language isolate from Nepal, may once have been spoken more widespread in the Himalayan region. Although his focus will be on the possible relationship between Kusunda and the Kho-Bwa languages and Tshangla – for which a more recent contact situation can be excluded – he may also look at languages spoken in Nepal itself. As part of his endeavour, Tim will continue to cooperate with his research counterpart in Nepal, Mr. Uday Raj Aaley, and the last surviving speaker of Kusunda, Mrs. Kamala Khatri (Sen Kusunda). They will work on the corpus of recordings that they collected in 2019, when Mrs. Khatri could still converse in her mother tongue with the late Mrs. Gyani Maiya Sen Kusunda.

Contact Tim