SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Douglas McNaught

BA Chinese (SOAS), MA Theory and Practice of Translation (SOAS)
  • Overview


Douglas Iain Mcnaught
Douglas McNaught
Email address:
Thesis title:
An investigation into the morphosyntax of tense-aspect and modality in Sakizaya: an indigenous language of Taiwan
Internal Supervisors

External Supervisors

Prof. Elizabeth Zeitoun (Academia Sinica, Taiwan)

PhD Research

‘Voice’ (or ‘focus’) markers in the Formosan and Philippine-type languages of the Austronesian family demonstrate a complex interaction with other linguistic features such as transitivity, topicality, and TAM. Previous research into Amis and Sakizaya shows that voice markers play some role in providing temporal inference for the clause when no other temporal information (adverbs, aspectual markers etc.) is present, though where this inference comes from is still not well understood. Analyses into the distribution of voice markers across a range of discourse types in Austronesian languages have shown that voice and its relation to transitivity is derived from characteristic discourse functions: high transitivity is correlated with foregrounding, and low transitivity with backgrounding though this relation to temporal information within the area of discourse analysis has been largely ignored.

Theoretical developments concerning discourse structure and rhetorical relations, most recently the approaches within (Segmented) Discourse Representation Theory ((S)DRT), focus heavily on pragmatics and have yielded great insights into the anaphoric properties of tense-aspect, exploiting how non-monotonic logic determines the possible interactions between discourse structure and temporal structure. It is the author’s conjecture that a similar analysis into the distribution of voice markers alongside temporal adverbs and aspectual markers in the untensed Formosan language of Sakizaya within the frameworks developed around rhetorical relations and its relation to Gricean implicatures can give us a clearer idea of how temporal information is inferred.

Alongside this theoretical investigation, our approach is corpus driven and this research principally aims to conduct a documentation and description of Sakizaya. Through building a large corpus of audio-visual material across a variety of discourse types, I hope to provide a fuller description of the verbal morphology of the language while investigating the interaction between temporal flow and discourse structure.

Fieldwork on the language took place in Guofu Village and Jici Village, Hualien County, Taiwan, between October 2014 and May 2015.


  • Title: Indigenous language education in Taiwan,The Field School on Language Revitalisation and Documentation, Wilamowice, Poland, 18-28 September 2016
  • Title: From mountains to metropolis: Indigenous language education in urban Taiwan, The Sixth Conference on Endangered Languages, Cambridge University, July 6th 2016
  • Title: The Curious Case of Karuruan – How a Minority Language Became the Lingua Franca of an Entire Community, The Fifth Conference on Endangered Languages, Cambridge University, July 31 2015
  • Title: The Hidden Aspect – The Durative in Sakizaya: An Indigenous Language of Taiwan, The 13th International Conference of Austronesian Studies (ICAL 13), Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan, July 18-23rd 2015
  • Plenary speaker. Title: Ecotranslation Theory: A New Ecocritical Approach to Highlighting Environmentalism in Translation Studies. 3rd International Symposium on Eco-Translatology, November 23-25 2012, Southwest University, Chongqing, China