The Forager's Index: Complex demonstrative systems among Southeast Asia’s last hunter-gatherers

Projekt: Forskning



Demonstratives (words like this and that) are universal in the languages of the world. As a speaker’s foremost linguistic device for indicating things to a listener, they are a crucial component of human communication. But their meaning and use are surprisingly difficult to interpret, and current theories disagree on what they mean and how they work. Previous work has focused on the most common type of demonstrative systems, with a small number of basic contrasts usually explained as indicating near and far (this and that). By contrast, this project will explore richer and less researched systems, with the aim of assessing how such systems can further our understanding of demonstratives. We will investigate two endangered languages spoken by hunter-gatherers in Southeast Asia—Jahai in Malaysia and Northern Alta in the Philippines—that have multiple contrasts expressing for example fine-grained distance to the indicated object, the direction in which it is found, or whether or not it is visible. The project brings together experienced language experts, who will examine demonstratives using a novel combination of field and corpus methods designed to elucidate the relationship between speaker, listener and the indicated object. Among other techniques, it will make innovative use of mobile recording technology as well as geo data for studying this relationship. The unique data generated by the project will be developed into a digital multimedia resource for future reference.
Gällande start-/slutdatum2022/01/012024/12/31


  • Swedish Research Council

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Humaniora