Plenary Address Information

Kitima Indambarya

(Kasetsart University)

The Acquisition of Passive in Thai Preschoolers

Wednesday, May 18, 5:20-6:20 pm Hawaii Time (in-person)

Passives in Thai are one that are generally marked with the adversative passive marker thuuk or doon, with full passives shown in (1) and short passive shown in (2). It is typically argued that children acquire passives much later than active sentences and may have difficulty comprehending passives in early age. Moreover, children tend to acquire passive with actional verbs earlier than those with psychological verbs (Maratsos et al. 1985). This study then aims at examining how pre-school Thai children comprehend and produce Thai passive containing verbs with adversative and actional features. 

136 Monolingual preschool Thai children took part in these comprehension and production tasks for acquisition of passive construction in Thai. Adversative and non-adversative verbs as well as actional and non-actional (psychological) verbs in semantically reversible passive sentences were tested. In comprehension test, children were given four-choices picture-based tasks and asked to identify the pictures corresponding to the given passive sentences. In the production test, they were asked to describe the given pictures. 

The results show that children are able to comprehend Thai passive as early as 2 years old with the accuracy rate of children’s comprehension increasing by age. In making Thai passive construction, children prefer to use short passive sentence and the passive marker doon. Children can produce passive construction with adversative verbs as early as 2-3 years old with usage increase by older age. Most passive sentences found are constructed with adversative actional verbs. Of all the verbs investigated, the adversative-actional verbs tii ‘to beat’ is the most frequently used in passive construction, followed by yìk ‘to pinch’ and kàt ‘to bite’, respectively. Non-actional (psychological) and non-adversative verbs are rarely used to construct the thùuk/doon passive construction in Thai children. 

Kitima Indrambarya, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in Linguistics at the Department of Linguistics, Faculty of Humanities, Kasetsart University, Thailand. She is a former dean of Faculty of Humanities, Kasetsart University. Her research interest is on Thai syntax and language acquisition. Her recent research is on syntactic acquisition of preschool Thai children. 

Peter Jenks

(University of California Berkeley)

Semantic Distinctions in the Thai Pronominal System

Thursday, May 19, 3:30-4:30 pm Hawaii Time (virtual)

Thai has an unusually large inventory of expressions that can be used for personal reference, including null pronouns, reflexive or logophoric pronouns, a wide array of honorific personal pronouns, along with proper names and titles. The richness of this system has puzzled syntacticians and semanticists in the generative tradition, leading some scholars to conclude that Thai lacks pronouns altogether, and others to claim that Thai names and pronouns are not subject to universal conditions on coreference. I try to show how the formal view of a pronoun as a variable, along with an enriched sense of what kinds of contextual information can restrict that variable, help make sense of distributional differences of Thai pronouns in various semantic contexts. I propose that Thai pronominals fall into three different subclasses 1) referentially dependent anaphors, 2) `true’ personal pronouns, and 3) ‘expanded’ indexicals—including names and titles—and spell out some of the pragmatic distinctions made in each domain. I finally try to show that the apparently exceptional distribution of Thai pronominals in fact has a simple explanation under Reinhart (1983) binding theory, in which variable binding is obligatory when possible.

Peter Jenks is an associate professor at UC Berkeley. He received his PhD from Harvard University in 2011, his dissertation focused on nominal syntax and semantics of Thai. He has since worked extensively on the syntax and semantics of Thai, Mandarin, and Moken, and has also been engaged in analytic projects focusing on a number of languages spoken in Sudan, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso. He has been engaged in a grammatical description project on Moro (Kordofanian: Sudan) for over 10 years in collaboration with native speakers and language activists for that language.

Most of Professor Jenks’s research looks at aspects of cross-linguistic variation through the lens of formal syntactic and semantic theory, asking how the full range of attested cross-linguistic variation can inform the shape of such theories. His work has focused extensively on nominal syntax and semantics, including work on definiteness, pronouns, relative clauses, modification, and quantification. 

Aldrin Lee

(University of the Philippines – Diliman)

Exploring Island Linguistics in the Philippines: Mooring Languages to Islandness

Friday, May 20, 5:15-6:15 pm Hawaii time (virtual)

This study explores the feasibility of Island Linguistics as a research program in the Philippines by providing case studies of what could potentially be considered as “island languages” in the archipelago. By using “Island Linguistics”, I attempt to advance the views put forward by Nash et al. (2020) and Nash, Markússon, & Bakker (2020) on the need to disentangle the study of linguistic forms and processes shaped in an island environment from the more established area of Island Studies and draw more attention towards investigations of topography-driven properties of human languages. While other scholars have previously examined the relationship between island topography and specific language properties (e.g. Nagaya [2022] on the directionals of Lamaholot spoken in Flores Island; Nash [2017] on islands and toponymy in Australia), there is still neither any known proposal for an island-spoken variety to be putatively considered as an “island language” nor any attempt to find cross-linguistic patterns that could be attributed specifically to the islands and their “islandness” (cf. Palmer et al., 2017).

Building upon the initial criteria for an island language proposed by Nash et al. (2020),  I first examine the case of Cuyonon (ISO 639-3 cyo), a West Bisayan  variety primarily spoken in the island of Cuyo (part of Palawan Province, in southwestern part of the Philippines). The data from Cuyonon suggest a robust relationship between “islandness” and language, as shown by the former being deeply entrenched in the semantic system, frames of spatial reference, and social practices related to language use.  Second, I present additional, albeit smaller, case studies from other island-spoken Philippine languages from different subgroups to identify possible shared features including Agutaynen (agn), Bolinao (smk), Kagayanen (cgc), and Porohanon (prh).  Lastly, I propose ways how to possibly account for these features in the grammatical description and in larger documentation projects involving island languages in the Philippines in the future.

Dr. Aldrin P. Lee obtained his PhD in Korean Linguistics from the Academy of Korean Studies, South Korea, where he also completed an interim MA in International Korean Studies. He also obtained MA in Linguistics from the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman in 2007. He received his BA in Linguistics also from UP Diliman with Magna Cum Laude honors in 2003. He is currently an Associate Professor at the Department of Linguistics, UP Diliman where he served as Chairperson from 2012-2015. He also served as Associate Dean for Research, Extension and Publications of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, UP Diliman from 2017 to 2020 and as OIC Director of the UP Korea Research Center from 2018 to 2020. His research interests include Grammatical Description, Morphosyntactic Analysis, Generative Grammar, Ethnolinguistics, Linguistic Fieldwork & Language Documentation, Lexicography, & Korean Linguistics and Cultural Studies. He has published articles in several journals including the Philippine Social Science Review, Cognition, and the Journal of Global and Area Studies.

He has headed several refereed publications in the University including the Diliman Review (Editor from 2016-2020), HanPil (Editor-in-Chief from 2018-2020) and The Archive (Editor-in-Chief in 2018-2019). He has recently been elected President of the Linguistic Society of the Philippines. In 2018, he became the first UP scholar to be awarded the Br. Andrew Gonzalez FSC Distinguished Professorial Chair in Linguistics and Language Education. He is also currently co-convenor of the Language Warriors PH, a social media group that helps facilitate translation of COVID-19 related materials into Philippine languages.

On top of Cuyonon—his mother tongue, Dr. Lee is also fluent in four other languages (Hiligaynon, Tagalog, English & Korean) and knows varying levels of Spanish, Bahasa Indonesia-Malaysia and Japanese.