Nam Noi | An ARC Discovery Project
14869
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DO LANGUAGE BOUNDARIES STABILIZE ETHNIC BOUNDARIES?

PROJECT AIMS

This 3-year project is a fieldwork-based study of the Nam Noy Valley situation in central upland Laos. The project’s three strands will tackle the following questions:

1. What is the structure of the three language systems and how convergent are they?
2. What is the nature of the social relations among the three ethnic groups?
3. What are the meaningful correlations, if any, between the answers to (1) and (2)?

The aims, therefore, are to:

Document

three neighbouring languages and their speakers’ social interrelations

Measure

the degree of structural convergence among the languages

Analyze

the results through a cognitively and sociologically grounded biased transmission framework, to see if there is a causal relation between maintaining separate languages and stabilizing ethnic boundaries

Formulate

a solid platform for sharpening and improving our understanding of inter-ethnic relations

BY THE END OF THIS 3-YEAR PROJECT, HERE IS WHAT WE WILL HAVE THAT WE DO NOT HAVE TODAY:

Three new reference grammars: descriptions of three languages of mainland Southeast Asia—Kri, Sek, and Bru—that have never been described to modern standards.

     A detailed sociolinguistic profile of an all-minority language ecology in an important yet understudied region of Southeast Asia.

     A causal analysis of an equilibrium-type ethnolinguistic contact situation, observed in real time, with implications for our understanding of stability in interethnic relations.

     An empirical test of a ‘biased transmission’ framework for understanding language and culture in terms of the micro-macro dynamics of social relations.

SUPPORTED BY