SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Beyond a two-way typology of Western Austronesian

Charlotte Hemmings (Oxford)

Date: 10 January 2017Time: 3:30 PM

Finishes: 10 January 2017Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Paul Webley Wing (Senate House) Room: S312

Type of Event: Seminar


Western Austronesian languages are often classified into Philippine-type and Indonesian-type on the basis of structural properties (see Arka & Ross 2005). In this talk, I demonstrate that the two way classification is not sufficient for two main reasons. Firstly, not all languages within a single category are alike and, secondly, there are languages spoken in transitional areas that are not neatly captured by either of the two groups. Using the examples of voice systems and word order – which are often used to distinguish between Philippine-type and Indonesian-type languages – I propose that a better approach is to establish the full extent of variation and highlight the importance of including underdescribed languages in this endeavour. Establishing parameters of variation enables a better understanding of how the structural properties relate to one another and possible paths of historical change.

About the speaker

Charlotte Hemmings completed her PhD at SOAS in 2016. Her thesis presented a documentation and description of Kelabit, a Western Austronesian language spoken in Northern Sarawak, Malaysia, as well as more detailed analysis of voice and related syntactic phenomena, which she will discuss during the talk. She is now a Leverhulme Early Career fellow at the University of Oxford and continues to research morphosyntactic variation in the languages of Northern Sarawak with a particular focus on how syntactic choices are related to information structure.