Marian Klamer

Austronesian and Papuan Linguistics

© 2015 www.marianklamer.org            

Language Archive of Insular South East Asia and West New Guinea (LAISEANG) (2013-2014)


CLARIN-NL Collaborative Project

• Project leader: Marian Klamer

• Project members:

- Tom Hoogervorst 

- Chris Haskett (The Language Archive, MPI Nijmegen)

- Paul Trilsbeek (The Language Archive, MPI Nijmegen)


The geographical region of insular South East Asia and New Guinea is well-known as an area of mega-biodiversity. Less well-known is the extreme linguistic diversity in this area: over a quarter of the world’s 6000 languages are spoken here. As small minority languages, most of these will cease to be spoken in the coming generations. This project ensures the preservation of unique records of languages in the region which have been gathered by more than two dozen linguists at, and in collaboration with, Dutch universities over the last 40 years. Materials were compiled and archived in collaboration with The Language Archive (TLA) at the Max Planck Institute in Nijmegen. The resulting archive constitutes an unrivaled collection of multimedia materials and written documents from 45 languages in Insular South East Asia and West New Guinea. At TLA, the data is archived according to state-of-the-art standards (TLA holds the Data Seal of Approval): the component metadata infrastructure CMDI is used; all metadata categories as well as relevant units of annotation are linked to the ISO data category registry ISOcat. This guarantees the proper integration of the language resources into the CLARIN framework. Through the archive, future speaker communities and researchers will be able to plumb the materials for answers to their own questions, even if they do not themselves know the language, and even if the language dies.


Results of this project included data sets of 45 languages of Insular South East Asia and West New Guinea archived with The Language Archive, MPI Nijmegen; online in 2014.


Further information: project page at clarin.nl

                                     project summary page at LUCL

Past projects ...

Current projects ...

Melanesian languages on the edge of Asia: past, present and future (8-12 February 2010, Manokwari, Papua)


Australia-Netherlands Research Collaboration (ANRC) Workshop Grant (2009)

• Academic leaders:

- Nicholas Evans (Australian National University)

- Marian Klamer

- Wayan Arka (Australian National University / Universitas Udayana, Indonesia)


This workshop focussed on the most linguistically diverse part of the world – Melanesia – which contains around a fifth of the world's 6000 languages in under 3% of its land area and less than 0.2% of its population. These languages are astonishingly diverse, barely known to science, and face the threat of extinction without trace in the coming century unless concerted international efforts are made to meet the huge challenge of documenting them. At the same time, the theoretical recognition of cultural and linguistic rights of minority groups in Indonesia, Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea faces enormous practical difficulties if it is to be realised, as national governments have indicated they wish, as education programs that allow children to receive part of their schooling in their mother-tongue.


Further information: workshop website

                                         project summary at the ANRC 2009 workshops page

• Collaborative Research Projects


DReaM: The Dictionary/Grammar Reading Machine: Computational Tools for Accessing the World’s Linguistic Heritage, 2018-2021. ERA Joint Programming Initiative on Cultural Heritage (JPI CH). PI: Harald Hammarström, Uppsala University, co-applicant Dr S. Robert, LLACAN,CNRS Paris; researcher in Leiden: Dr Soeren Wichmann. 

NIAS Theme group Capturing Phylogenetic Algorithms for Linguistics (5 fellows, 3 months). Co-applicant  Harald Hammarström. 

Grammar Matrix Reloaded: Syntax and Semantics of Affectedness (2014-2017). Principal Investigator: František Kratochvíl (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore). Bringing the fields of grammar engineering and language description closer together.

Reconstructing the past through languages of the present: The Lesser Sunda Islands (2014 - 2019)


Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), VICI Grant Research Project

• Principle Investigator: Marian Klamer

• Postdoctoral researchers:

  - Francesca Moro

  - Gereon Kaiping

  - Owen Edwards

• PhD students:

  - Hanna Fricke

  - George Saad


-Exploring the difference between linguistic borrowing and inheriting, we investigate a unique language area in eastern Indonesia where borrowing between languages that are not related to each other occurs.


Further information: VICI project website

                                        Project summary page at Leiden University Centre for Linguistics

Alor-Pantar languages: Origins and theoretical impact (2009-2013)


EuroBABEL Collaborative Research Project (a EUROCORES program)

• Principal Investigator: Marian Klamer

• Collaborative senior researchers:  

- Gary Holton (University of Fairbanks, head of Alaska Native Language Center)

- Greville Corbett (University of Surrey, head of the Surrey Morphology Group)

- Dunstan Brown (University of York)

• Postdoctoral researchers:

- Sebastian Fedden (University of Surrey)

- Laura Robinson (UC Santa Barbara)

- Antoinette Schapper (Universiteit Leiden)


This research project aimed to further document and analyse the non-Austronesian languages of several islands of the Alor-Pantar region in southeastern Indonesia. Until very recently, these endangered languages were among the least documented languages of Indonesia.


The project focussed on:

(1) Extended documentation of spatial reference and numerical expressions.


(2) Word Class Typology: the continuum between word classes and grammatical features; how morpho-syntactic categories evolve; unusual morpho-syntactic phenomena of the Alor-Pantar languages.


(3) Linguistic Prehistory: quantitative evidence for the genetic position of the Alor-Pantar languages, based on a bottom-up reconstruction to establish genetic subgroups and evaluate potential genetic relationships with languages of New Guinea.


Results of this project included three edited volumes and dozens of articles.


Further information: research project website

                                        related Universiteit Leiden link

Characterizing Human Language by Structural Complexity (CHLaSC) (2008-2010)


• Collaborative Research Project funded by the European Commission

• Conducted by:

- Uli Sauerland (Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft Berlin)

- Bart Hollebrandse (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen)


This research project investigated the structural complexity of human language and its significance for human nature. The possible relations between the ability to generate embedded structures and the cognitive ability of ascribing beliefs to others (i.e., Theory of Mind) made up the focus of the project.


Further information: research project summary page at ZAS

Linguistic Variation in Eastern Indonesia: The Alor and Pantar project (2002-2008)


Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), Vernieuwingsimpuls (VIDI) Research Grant

• Project members:

- Marian Klamer

- Louise Baird

- František Kratochvíl 


The research in this project concerned an initial survey of the linguistic situation on the islands of Alor and Pantar in southeastern Indonesia, as well as in-depth description of four languages spoken in this region: Abui, Teiwa, Alorese and Klon. In this project we combined the urgent need to document these languages with a comparative and theoretical analysis of a specific set of their structural characteristics. The cross-linguistic comparisons have a genetic, areal, as well as a typological angle.


Further information: research project summary at LIAS

Documentation of Klon, Abui, and Teiwa (2004)


The Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project (HRELP), SOAS, London

• Main applicant: Louise Baird


The primary aim of the fieldwork for this project was to collect more language data for Klon, Abui and Teiwa to add to the body of data collected in 2003 by during the Linguistic Variation in Eastern Indonesia project.


Results of this project included short grammars of Klon and Teiwa and a full reference grammar of Abui, trilingual dictionaries (local language – Indonesian – English) and a collection of texts published locally for each language using both the national Indonesian language and English.


Further information: project summary at HRELP

                                     Endangered Language Archive (ELA)

Grammaticalization in languages of Eastern Indonesia (1996-1999)


Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) Royal Academy Fellowship


The goal of this project was to investigate the historical development of functional elements in the Austronesian (Central-Malayo-Polynesian, CMP) languages in eastern Indonesia, focussing in particular on Kambera. Functional items may develop out of lexical items through processes of morpho-syntactic and semantic generalisation and phonological weakening. Such processes of change are commonly referred to as ‘grammaticalization’.


In the study of grammaticalization in CMP-languages the following questions were addressed:


(1) Which types of semantic, morpho-syntactic and phonological changes do lexical elements undergo in the process of grammaticalization?


(2) What are the conditions for grammaticalization to take place (optionally or obligatorily)?


(3) How do we account for lexemes that are phonologically identical and derive from the same ancestor, but have different morpho-syntactic categories in the grammar of a language as spoken today?


(4) More generally: does synchronic grammar only contain words belonging to discrete categories, or can words belong to more than one category at the time?


Results of the project included articles on the grammaticalization of report verbs into complementizers (e.g., Lingua 2000), the synchronic and diachronic analysis of clitic clusters (e.g., Linguistics 1997), the development of phrasal emotion predicates (e.g., Yearbook of Morphology 2000), an account of multi-categorial items in synchronic grammar (e.g., Klamer 2004 in Fischer, Norde and Perridon (eds.)), and an article on the non-arbitrary form of expressives (Language 2002).

 The morphology of Kambera (1990-1994)


Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)

• Personal Grant, Individual PhD Research Project


The primary aim of this project was to document and describe the Kambera language in detail. This involved 18 months of fieldwork on the island of Sumba in southeastern Indonesia.


The result of this project was a PhD dissertation, 'Kambera: a language of Eastern Indonesia', with Geert Booij and Wim Stokhof as supervisors. This dissertation was nominated by the Dutch Linguistic Society among the top three linguistic dissertations defended at a Dutch university in 1994 ('AVT Dissertation Award') and was published in Mouton Grammar Library as Klamer (1998).