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Professor Nathan Hill
Professor in Chinese Studies, C.L.C.S.

Publications and Further Research Outputs

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Nathan W. Hill, Making and agreeing to requests in Old Tibetan, Himalayan Linguistics, 21, (1), 2023, p29-39 Journal Article, 2023

Johann-Mattis List, Ekaterina Vylomova, Robert Forkel, Nathan W. Hill, Ryan D. Cotterell, The SIGTYP 2022 Shared Task on the Prediction of Cognate Reflexes, Proceedings of the 4th Workshop on Computational Typology and Multilingual NLP (SIGTYP 2022), 2022, p52 - 62 Journal Article, 2022 TARA - Full Text

Hill, Nathan W., Two notes on Proto-Ersuic, Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale, 51, (1), 2022, p105-114 Journal Article, 2022 DOI

Hill, Nathan W., Accusative alignment in the Old Tibetan switch reference system, Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area, 2022 Journal Article, 2022 TARA - Full Text

O'Neill, Alexander James, Hill, Nathan, Text Recognition for Nepalese Manuscripts in Pracalit Script, Journal of Open Humanities Data, 8, 2022 Journal Article, 2022 DOI

List, Johann-Mattis and Hill, Nathan W. and Forkel, Robert, Proceedings of the 3rd Workshop on Computational Approaches to Historical Language Change, Proceedings of the 3rd Workshop on Computational Approaches to Historical Language Change, Dublin, 2022, pp89-96 Conference Paper, 2022

Hill, Nathan W., The Envoys of Phywa to Dmu (PT 126), Revue d'Etudes Tibétaines, 60, 2021, p84 - 143 Journal Article, 2021 TARA - Full Text URL

Scholarship on Trans-Himalayan (Tibeto-Burman) languages of South East Asia in, editor(s)Paul Sidwell and Mathias Jenny , The Languages and Linguistics of Mainland Southeast Asia, Berlin, Mouton de Gruyter, 2021, pp111-138 , [Hill, Nathan W.] Book Chapter, 2021 URL TARA - Full Text

Meelen, Marieke, Roux, Élie, Hill, Nathan, Optimisation of the Largest Annotated Tibetan Corpus Combining Rule-based, Memory-based, and Deep-learning Methods, ACM Transactions on Asian and Low-Resource Language Information Processing, 20, (1), 2021, p1-11 Journal Article, 2021 DOI

Oliver Adams, Benjamin Galliot, Guillaume Wisniewski, Nicholas Lambourne, Ben Foley, Rahasya Sanders-Dwyer, Janet Wiles, Alexis Michaud, Séverine Guillaume, Laurent Besacier, Christopher Cox, Katya Aplonova, Guillaume Jacques, Nathan Hill, User-Friendly Automatic Transcription of Low-Resource Languages: Plugging ESPnet into Elpis, Proceedings of the 4th Workshop on the Use of Computational Methods in the Study of Endangered Languages, 2021, p51 - 62 Journal Article, 2021

Hill, Nathan W., The prefix g- and -o- ablaut in Tibetan present verb stems, Bulletin of Chinese Linguistics, 12, (2), 2020, p229-236 Journal Article, 2020 DOI

Hill, Nathan W., List, Johann-Mattis, Using Chinese Character Formation Graphs to Test Proposals in Chinese Historical Phonology, Bulletin of Chinese Linguistics, 12, (2), 2020, p186-200 Journal Article, 2020 DOI

Hill, Nathan W., Simeon Floyd, Elisabeth Norcliffe, and Lila San Roque: Egophoricity, Linguistic Typology, 24, (1), 2020, p201-208 Journal Article, 2020 DOI

Wu, Mei-Shin, Schweikhard, Nathanael E., Bodt, Timotheus A., Hill, Nathan W., List, Johann-Mattis, Computer-Assisted Language Comparison: State of the Art, Journal of Open Humanities Data, 6, (1), 2020, p2 Journal Article, 2020 DOI

Fellner, Hannes A., Hill, Nathan W., The differing status of reconstruction in Trans-Himalayan and Indo-European, Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale, 48, (2), 2019, p159-172 Journal Article, 2019 DOI

Dugdak, Sonam and Hill, Nathan W., 'Share the sweets', An introspective analysis of copulas following adjectives in Modern Standard Tibetan, Revue d'Etudes Tibétaines, 52, 2019, p185-192 Journal Article, 2019

Hill, Nathan W., Tibetan zero nominalization, Revue d'Etudes Tibétaines, 48, 2019, p5-9 Journal Article, 2019

Fellner, Hannes A., Hill, Nathan W., Word families, allofams, and the comparative method, Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale, 48, (2), 2019, p91-124 Journal Article, 2019 DOI

List, Johann-Mattis and Hill, Nathan W. and Foster, Christopher, Towards a standardized annotation of rhyme judgments in Chinese historical phonology (and beyond), Journal of Language Relationship, 17, (1), 2019, p26-43 Journal Article, 2019

Hill, Nathan W. , The Historical Phonology of Tibetan, Burmese, and Chinese, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2019 Book, 2019

Hill, Nathan W., The Derivation of the Tibetan Present Prefix g- from " - Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, 72, (3), 2019, p325-332 Journal Article, 2019 DOI

Meelen, Marieke, Hill, Nathan W., Segmenting and POS tagging Classical Tibetan using a memory-based tagger, Himalayan Linguistics, 16, (2), 2018 Journal Article, 2018 DOI

Miles, James, Miyake, Marc, Hill, Nathan W., The use of Reflectance Transformation Imaging in the recording and analyses of Burmese Pyu inscriptions, Archaeological Research in Asia, 16, 2018, p130-138 Journal Article, 2018 DOI

Gawne, Lauren and Hill, Nathan W., Evidential Systems of Tibetan Languages, Berlin, Mouton de Gruyter, 2017 Book, 2017

Hill, Nathan W., Songs of the Bailang: A New Transcription with Etymological Commentary, Bulletin de l'Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient, 103, (1), 2017, p386-429 Journal Article, 2017 DOI

Simon, Walter (1893-1981) in, Encyclopedia of Chinese Language and Linguistics, Leiden, Brill, 2017, pp100 - 102, [Hill, Nathan W.] Book Chapter, 2017 DOI

Perfect experiential constructions: the inferential semantics of direct evidence in, Evidential Systems of Tibetan Languages, De Gruyter, 2017, [Hill, Nathan W.] Book Chapter, 2017 DOI

Hill, Nathan W., Tibetan first person singular pronouns, Rocznik Orientalistyczny, 70, (2), 2017, p161-169 Journal Article, 2017

Hill, Nathan W., Evidential Systems of Tibetan Languages, De Gruyter, 2017 Book, 2017 DOI

List, Johann-Mattis, Pathmanathan, Jananan Sylvestre, Hill, Nathan W., Bapteste, Eric, Lopez, Philippe, Vowel purity and rhyme evidence in Old Chinese reconstruction, Lingua Sinica, 3, (1), 2017 Journal Article, 2017 DOI

The lexicography of Tibetan in, Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2017, pp1-11 , [Hill, Nathan W., Garrett, Edward] Book Chapter, 2017 DOI

Hill, Nathan W., Tibetan *-as > -os, International Journal of Diachronic Linguistics and Reconstruction, 12, 2016, p163-173 Journal Article, 2016

Hill, Nathan W., A refutation of Song's (2014) explanation of the 'stop coda problem' in Old Chinese, International Journal of Chinese Linguistics, 3, (2), 2016, p270-281 Journal Article, 2016 DOI

Hill, Nathan W., The Evidence for Chinese *-r, Bulletin of Chinese Linguistics, 9, (2), 2016, p190-204 Journal Article, 2016 DOI

Hill, Nathan W., 'Come as lord of the black-headed' - an Old Tibetan mythic formula., Zentralasiatische Studien, 45, 2016, p203-216 Journal Article, 2016

Garrett, Edward and Hill, Nathan W. and Kilgarriff, Adam and Vadlapudi, Ravikiran and Zadoks, Abel, The contribution of corpus linguistics to lexicography and the future of Tibetan dictionaries, Revue d'Etudes Tibétaines , 32, 2015, p51-86 Journal Article, 2015

Hill, Nathan W., Hare lõ: the touchstone of mirativity, SKASE Journal of Theoretical Linguistics , 13, (2), 2015, p24-31 Journal Article, 2015

Hill, Nathan W., Tibetan part-of-speech conundrums: maṅ and yun riṅ, Rocznik Orientalistyczny, 68, (2), 2015, p65-72 Journal Article, 2015

Hill, Nathan W., Origins and Migrations in the Extended Eastern Himalayas. Edited by Toni Huber and Stuart Blackburn. Leiden, Brill, 2012., Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland, 25, (2), 2015, p366-368 Journal Article, 2015 DOI

Hill, Nathan W., Proposal for a transcription of Chinese characters in the study of early Chinese language and literature. , Bulletin of Chinese Linguistics, 8, (1), 2015, p48-60 Journal Article, 2015 DOI

Hill, Nathan Wayne, The sku bla Rite in Imperial Tibetan Religion, Cahiers d'Extrême-Asie, 24, (1), 2015, p49-58 Journal Article, 2015 DOI

Languages: Tibetan in, editor(s)Jonathan Silk , Encyclopedia of Buddhism, Leiden, 2015, pp917 - 924, [Hill, Nathan W.] Book Chapter, 2015

Tibetan in, editor(s)Nicola Grandi and Livia Kortvelyessy , Edinburgh Handbook of Evaluative Morphology, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2015, pp381 - 388, [Simon, Camille and Hill, Nathan W.] Book Chapter, 2015

Tibeto-Burman *dz- > Tibetan z- and related proposals in, editor(s)Richard VanNess Simmons and Newell Ann Van Auken , Studies in Chinese and Sino-Tibetan Linguistics, Taipei, Institute of Linguistics, Academia Sinica, 2014, [Hill, Nathan W.] Book Chapter, 2014

Garrett, Edward and Hill, Nathan W. and Zadoks, Abel, A rule-based part-of-speech tagger for Classical Tibetan, Himalayan Linguistics, 13, (2), 2014, p9-57 Journal Article, 2014

A Gter ma of negatives. H.E. Richardson's photographic negatives of manuscript copies of Tibetan imperial inscriptions possibly collected by Rig 'dzin Tshe dbang nor bu in the 18th century CE, recently found in the Bodleian Library, Oxford in, editor(s)Kurt Tropper , Epigraphic Evidence in the Pre-modern Buddhist World. Proceedings of the Eponymous Conference Held in Vienna, 14-15 Oct. 2011, Vienna, Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien, 2014, pp83-115 , [Hill, Nathan W.] Book Chapter, 2014

Hill, Nathan W., Proto-Kuki-Chin initials according to Toru Ohno and Kenneth VanBik, Journal of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society, 7, 2014, p11-30 Journal Article, 2014

Hill, Nathan W., Some Tibetan verb forms that violate Dempsey's law, Revue d'Etudes Tibétaines, 29, 2014, p99-109 Journal Article, 2014

Hill, Nathan W., A typological perspective on Classical Mongolian indirect speech, Central Asiatic Journal, 56, 2014, p11-18 Journal Article, 2014

W. Hill, Nathan, Grammatically Conditioned Sound Change, Language and Linguistics Compass, 8, (6), 2014, p211-229 Journal Article, 2014 DOI

Sino-Tibetan in, editor(s)Lieber, Rochelle, tekauer, Pavol, , The Oxford Handbook of Derivational Morphology, Oxford University Press, 2014, [Chung, Karen Steffen, Hill, Nathan W., Sun, Jackson T.-S.] Book Chapter, 2014 DOI

Hill, Nathan W., A Note on Voicing Alternation In The Tibetan Verbal System, Transactions of the Philological Society, 112, (1), 2014, p1-4 Journal Article, 2014 DOI

Hill, Nathan W., Cognates of Old Chinese *-n, *-r, and *-j "in Tibetan and Burmese, Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale, 43, (2), 2014, p91-109 Journal Article, 2014 DOI

Hill, Nathan W., Contextual semantics of 'Lhasa' Tibetan evidentials, SKASE Journal of Theoretical Linguistics, 10, (3), 2013, p47-54 Journal Article, 2013

A new interpretation of the mythological incipit of the Rkong po inscription in, editor(s)Tropper, Kurt and Scherrer-Schaub, Cristina , Tibetan Inscriptions, Leiden, Brill, 2013, pp171-182 , [Hill, Nathan W.] Book Chapter, 2013 DOI

Owen-Smith, Thomas and Hill, Nathan W., Trans-Himalayan Linguistics, Berlin, de Gruyter Mouton, 2013 Book, 2013 DOI

Hill, Nathan W., Three notes on Laufer's law , Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area, 36, (1), 2013, p57-72 Journal Article, 2013

Hill, Nathan W., Mark Turin: A Grammar of the Thangmi Language: with an Ethnolinguistic Introduction to the Speakers and Their Culture. (Brill's Tibetan Studies Library. Languages of the Greater Himalayan Region.) xxxvii, 958 pp. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2012. €169. ISBN 978 90 04 15526 8., Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 76, (1), 2013, p148-150 Journal Article, 2013 DOI

The emergence of the pluralis majestatis and the relative chronology of Old Tibetan texts in, editor(s)Franz-Karl Ehrhard and Petra Maurer , Nepalica-Tibetica: Festgabe for Christoph Cüppers, Andiast, International Institute for Tibetan and Buddhist Studies GmbH, 2013, pp249 - 262, [Hill, Nathan W.] Book Chapter, 2013

Hill, Nathan W., Relative ordering of Tibetan sound changes affecting laterals, Language and Linguistics, 14, (1), 2013, p193-209 Journal Article, 2013

Garrett, Edward and Hill, Nathan W. and Zadoks, Abel, Disambiguating Tibetan verb stems with matrix verbs in the indirect infinitive construction, Bulletin of Tibetology, 49, (2), 2013, p35 - 44 Journal Article, 2013

Hill, Nathan W., Old Chinese *sm- and the Old Tibetan Word for `Fire', Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale, 42, (1), 2013, p60-71 Journal Article, 2013 DOI

Introduction in, editor(s)Nathan W. Hill , Medieval Tibeto-Burman Languages IV, Leiden, Brill, 2012, pp1-4 , [Hill, Nathan W.] Book Chapter, 2012

Hill, Nathan, Sam Van Schaik: Tibet: A History. xxiii, 324 pp. London and New York: Yale University Press, 2011. £25. ISBN 978 0 300 15404 7., Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 75, (1), 2012, p190-192 Journal Article, 2012 DOI

Hill, Nathan W., "Mirativity" does not exist: ḥdug in "Lhasa" Tibetan and other suspects, Linguistic Typology, 16, (3), 2012 Journal Article, 2012 DOI

Hill, Nathan W., A note on the history and future of the 'Wylie' system, Revue d'Etudes Tibétaines, 23, 2012, p103-105 Journal Article, 2012

Hill, Nathan W., Evolution of the Burmese Vowel System, Transactions of the Philological Society, 110, (1), 2012, p64-79 Journal Article, 2012 DOI

Hill, Nathan, W., Tibetan-las, -nas and -bas, Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale, 41, (1), 2012, pv-38 Journal Article, 2012 DOI

Tibetan Palatalization and the gy versus g.y Distinction in, BRILL, 2012, pp383-398 Book Chapter, 2012 DOI

Hill, Nathan W., The Six Vowel Hypothesis of Old Chinese in Comparative Context, Bulletin of Chinese Linguistics, 6, (2), 2012, p1-69 Journal Article, 2012 DOI

Hill, Nathan W., An Inventory of Tibetan Sound Laws, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 21, (4), 2011, p441-457 Journal Article, 2011 DOI

The allative, locative, and terminative cases (la-don) in the Old Tibetan Annals in, editor(s)Imaeda Yoshiro and Mathew Kapstein , Studies on Old Tibetan Documents, Tokyo, Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studie, 2011, pp3-38 , [Hill, Nathan W.] Book Chapter, 2011

Hill, Nathan W., Alternances entre ḥ et b en tibétain ancien et dans les langues tibétaines modernes, Revue d'Etudes Tibétaines, 20, 2011, p115-122 Journal Article, 2011

Hill, Nathan W., Multiple origins of Tibetan o, Language and Linguistics, 12, (3), 2011, p707-721 Journal Article, 2011

Hill, Nathan. W., A Lexicon of Tibetan Verb Stems as Reported by the Grammatical Tradition, Munich, Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2010 Book, 2010

Hill, Nathan W., A note on the phonetic evolution of yod-pa-red in central Tibet, Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area, 33, (1), 2010, p93-94 Journal Article, 2010

Hill, Nathan W., An overview of Old Tibetan synchronic phonology, Transactions of the Philological Society, 108, (2), 2010, p110-125 Journal Article, 2010 DOI

Hill, Nathan W., Buddhism and Empire. By Michael Walter. pp. xxvii, 311. Leiden, Brill, 2009., Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 20, (4), 2010, p559-562 Journal Article, 2010 DOI

Hill, Nathan W., Sommerschuh, Christine, Einführung in die tibetische Schriftsprache: Lehrbuch für den Unterricht und das vertiefende Selbststudium, Indo-Iranian Journal, 53, (3), 2010, p251-264 Journal Article, 2010 DOI

Hill, Nathan W., The converb -las in Old Tibetan, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 73, (2), 2010, p245-260 Journal Article, 2010 DOI

Hill, Nathan W., Personal pronouns in Old Tibetan, Journal Asiatique, 298, (2), 2010, p549-571 Journal Article, 2010

Hill, Nathan W., Tibetan <ḥ-> as a plain initial and its place in Old Tibetan phonology, Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area, 32, (1), 2009, p115-140 Journal Article, 2009

Hill, Nathan W., The Ḥphags-pa letter ꡖ ˂ḥ˃ and laryngeal phenomena in Mongolian and Chinese, Central Asiatic Journal, 52, (2), 2009, p183-205 Journal Article, 2009

Iwao, Kazushi and Hill, Nathan W. and Takeuchi, Tsuguhito, Old Tibetan Inscriptions, Tokyo, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, 2009 Book, 2009

Hill, Nathan W., Modern Tibetan Literature and Social Change (review), China Review International, 16, (2), 2009, p185-189 Journal Article, 2009 DOI

Verba moriendi in the Old Tibetan Annals in, editor(s)Christopher Beckwith , Medieval Tibeto-Burman Languages III, Halle, International Institute for Tibetan and Buddhist Studies GmbH, 2008, pp71-86 , [Hill, Nathan W.] Book Chapter, 2008

Hill, Nathan W., Aspirated and unaspirated voiceless consonants in Old Tibetan, Language and Linguistics, 8, (2), 2007, p471-493 Journal Article, 2007

Hill, Nathan W., Personalpronomina in der Lebensbeschreibung des Mi la ras pa, Kapitel III, Zentralasiatische Studien, 36, 2007, p277-287 Journal Article, 2007

Hill, Nathan W., Tibetan vwa 'fox' and the sound change Tibeto-Burman *wa -> Old Tibetan o, Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area, 19, (2), 2006, p75-90 Journal Article, 2006

Hill, Nathan W., The verb 'bri 'to write' in Old Tibetan, Journal of Asian and African Studies , 68, 2005, p177 - 182 Journal Article, 2005

Hill, Nathan W., Once more on the letter འ, Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area, 28, (2), 2005, p111-141 Journal Article, 2005

Non-Peer-Reviewed Publications

Garrett, Edward and Hill, Nathan W., Constituent order in the Tibetan noun phrase, SOAS Working Papers in Linguistics , 17, 2015, p35-48 Journal Article, 2015

Some Tibetan first person plural inclusive pronouns in, editor(s)Hanna Havnevik and Charles Ramble , From Bhakti to Bon, Oslo, Novus, 2015, pp242 - 248, [Hill, Nathan W.] Book Chapter, 2015

Introduction in, Trans-Himalayan Linguistics: Historical and Descriptive Linguistics of the Himalayan Area, Berlin, Mouton de Gruyter, 2013, pp1-10 , [Owen-Smith, Tom and Hill, Nathan W.] Book Chapter, 2013

Hill, Nathan W., The merger of Proto-Burmish *ts and *č in Burmese, SOAS Working Papers in Linguistics , 16, 2013, p334-345 Journal Article, 2013

Research Expertise


Nathan W. Hill's research focuses on Tibeto-Burman/Sino-Tibetan historical linguistics. In particular he has published on Old Tibetan descriptive linguistics, Tibetan corpus linguistics, Tibeto-Burman reconstruction and comparative linguistics, and the typology of evidential systems. His current projects include a grammar of Old Tibetan and the historical phonology of Han dynasty Chinese.


  • Title
    • Han Phonology: When Chinese Became Chinese
  • Summary
    • Chinese is famous for its short simple words, its tones, and its simple grammar, but in the distant past Chinese was a very different language; Old Chinese (1300-100 BCE) lacked tones, had consonant clusters as impressive as those of German or Georgian, and it used prefixes and suffixes to form new words. By 602 CE, the date of the earliest Chinese pronunciation dictionary, Middle Chinese was already recognizably a form of the language we known today. How did Chinese change so much? The Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE) holds the key; it was the first enduring empire in Chinese history, and among the most formative periods for Chinese thought and literature. At this time, the Confucian cultural milieu accompanying classical scholarship thrived. The Confucian classics themselves were edited and (literally) set in stone, while poetry and belletristic prose flourished. The Han also saw unprecedented exposure to and influences from foreign cultures, from grapes to backgammon, with Buddhism standing out as the period's most abiding foreign influence. This project will produce a Handbook of Han Chinese Phonology that will supersede the previous two book length studies of Han phonology, published respectively in 1958 and 1983. By collecting and formalizing existing knowledge of sound change during the Han period in a computer readable format, we will be able to rigorously test competing ideas and produce a reliable foundation for future progress. We will also applying state-of-the-art network analysis to the linguistic data of both well known and newly unearthed texts to pinpoint the time, place, and social milieu of known changes. Using this fresh collection of evidence and these new methods, we will decide among controversial proposals and make new discoveries. We will give the most thorough and empirical treatment so far of regional and social variation in speech over the period. In particular, by comparing the pronunciations implied by the rhymes in poetry written by Confucian literati and the pronunciations implied by the transcription of Indic terms in Buddhist texts, we will reveal the language systems of these two distinct religious communities.
  • Funding Agency
    • Arts and Humanities Research Council Research
  • Date From
    • May 2021
  • Date To
    • Apr 2025
  • Title
    • Beyond Boundaries: Religion, Region, Language and the State
  • Summary
    • The Gupta dynasty dominated South Asia during the 4th and 5th centuries. Their period was marked by political stability and an astonishing florescence in every field of endeavor. The Gupta kingdom and its networks had an enduring impact on India and a profound reach across Central and Southeast Asia in a host of cultural, religious and socio-political spheres. Sometimes characterized as a 'Golden Age', this was a pivotal moment in Asian history. The Guptas have received considerable scholarly attention over the last century, as have, separately, the kingdoms of Central and Southeast Asia. Recent advances notwithstanding, knowledge and research activity are fragmented by entrenched disciplinary protocols, distorted by nationalist historiographies and constrained by regional languages and associated cultural and political agendas. Hemmed in by modern intellectual, geographical and political boundaries, the diverse cultures, complex polities and varied networks of the Gupta period remain specialist subjects, little-mentioned outside area studies and traditional disciplinary frameworks. The aim of this project is to work beyond these boundaries for the first time and so recover this profoundly influential dispensation, presenting it as a vibrant entity with connections across several regions and sub-continental areas. To address this aim, three PIs have formed an interdisciplinary team spanning linguistics, history, religious studies, geography, archaeology, Indology, Sinology and GIS/IT technologies. This team will establish a scientific laboratory in London that will generate the synergies needed to delineate and assess the significance of the Gupta Age and its pan-Asian impacts. The project's wider objective is to place Central,South and Southeast Asia on the global historical stage, significantly influence practices in Asian research and support EU leadership in Asian studies.
  • Funding Agency
    • European Research Council
  • Date From
    • Sept 2014
  • Date To
    • Aug 2020
  • Title
    • Tibetan in Digital Communication: Corpus Linguistics and Lexicography
  • Summary
    • In age, breadth and diversity of genre, Tibetan literature is in every way comparable to English. The Tibetan alphabet was invented in 650 CE. The earliest currently available securely dateable document dates to ca. 763 CE. Literary production has continued from that time unabated until today. Yet, the lexicographical resources of Tibetan are very inadequate and vastly inferior to what is available to English speakers. In total, students of Tibetan can draw on about a dozen dictionaries, most for Classical Tibetan. The scope of these lexicons tends to be poorly defined, and none of them meets the standards of scientific lexicography. Moreover, there is not a single work that covers the earliest period of Tibetan literature, Old Tibetan (650-1000 CE). The corpus and tools we propose to create will serve as the first step to advance the compilation of a comprehensive historical Tibetan dictionary akin to the Oxford English Dictionary. In order to achieve this, we propose to produce a large corpus of Tibetan texts spanning the language's entire history, drawn from Old, Classical and Modern Tibetan. In the past, scholars used laborious collections of slips organised and stored in vast filing cabinets in order to compile large dictionaries. Advances in computational linguistics mean that this work can now be achieved more thoroughly and effectively through the creation of annotated digital corpora. But our corpus, once carefully analysed and tagged, will not only pave the way for the compilation of Tibetan dictionaries of hitherto inconceivable calibre, but it will also prepare the ground for a wide range of other significant research initiatives. By mounting it on the Web, scholars from a wide range of disciplines (history, religion, literature, linguistics, etc.) working with Tibetan language materials will be able to search it and use its content for their own research. It is thus likely to become foundational to a vast array of research initiatives, benefiting many different constituencies in academia. Outside academia, in the modern world of electronic communication, our corpus will lay the foundation for the creation of new digital technologies for Tibetan (text messaging, automated translation, etc.). The high investment required to develop language software leaves languages without commercial or political power isolated and poorly resourced. Digital communication technologies are built on basic language processing tools (eg, word-segmentation programmes, part-of-speech taggers) of the very type we propose to create. Our work will reduce the cost to develop such technologies and thus attract commercial interest. Although Tibetan is spoken by more than two million people, it is barely represented in electronic media as a spoken language. We seek to remedy this by creating an electronic resource that will restore to Tibetans, irrespective of their residence or adopted nationality, the choice to use their language as they see fit in a world that is increasingly shaped by digital communication.
  • Funding Agency
    • Arts and Humanities Research Council Research Grant
  • Date From
    • Sept 2012
  • Date To
    • Aug 2015
  • Title
    • Pre-history of the Sino-Tibetan languages: the sound laws relating Old Burmese, Old Chinese, and Old Tibetan
  • Summary
    • The history of the languages of Europe is understood stretching back thousands of years before the appearance of written records. This feat is achieved by the discovery of sound laws through the comparison of attested languages, e.g. Latin p- corresponds to English f- (pes, foot; primus, first; plenus, full). Using such laws one can reconstruct not only the prehistoric language that gave rise to all of the Indo-European languages, but also explore the religion, society, and material culture of the speakers of this language.
  • Funding Agency
    • British Academy
  • Date From
    • Dec 2011
  • Date To
    • Aug 2014
  • Title
    • The Emergence of Egophoricity: a diachronic investigation into the marking of the conscious self
  • Summary
    • This project looks at the way certain Tibetan and Newar varieties express the perspective of the speaker in the sentence. In Lhasa Tibetan, for example, the auxiliary verb 'yin' can be used in sentences where the speaker is the subject (nga em-chi yin '*I'm* a doctor'), if the speaker wants to identify their personal relation or possession ('di nga'i bu-mo yin 'This is *my* daughter') or if the speaker chooses to emphasise who performed an action ('di khyed-rang-gi gsol-ja yin 'This is your tea [that *I* have made for you]'). Other Tibetan varieties, such as Jirel or South Mustang Tibetan also exhibit egophoric markers like Lhasa Tibetan 'yin', but not always in the same contexts. In Newar varieties that are also spoken in Nepal, however, egophoric marking consists of long vowels in verbal endings rather than separate (auxiliary) verbs (ji Manaj napalan-aa 'I (the speaker) met Manoj as planned' vs. ji Manaj napalan-a 'I met Manoj by coincidence'). Finally, in older stages of both Tibetan and Newar varieties, this egophoric marking cannot be found. The central question that this project aims to answer is how and why specific grammatical markers to indicate the speaker's involvement emerge over time in ways that slightly differ, even in closely related languages. What subtle grammatical clues can be found in olders stages of these languages that in later stages result in egophoric marking? In this project we first investigate how Present-Day Tibetan and Newar varieties grammatically express the speaker's involvement. For this purpose we will create annotated corpora: digital text collections enriched with linguistic information about the structure and meaning of each element in the sentence. Because there is no data available yet for the highly endangered Lalitpur Newar variety, we will conduct fieldwork in Nepal to document the language and collect texts for our corpora. We then add the same linguistic information to historical texts. Older archive texts in South Mustang Tibetan, for example, will be compared to 18-19th texts written in standard Classical Tibetan to investigate the development of the Present-Day Lhasa Tibetan egophoric marker 'byung', which indicates the speaker is the recipient of an action (khong gis ngar yige btang byung 'He sent *me* a letter.'). Present-Day South Mustang Tibetan also has a verb 'byung', which goes back to Old and Classical Tibetan 'byung' meaning 'receive, get'. But unlike Lhasa Tibetan, this verb in South Mustang Tibetan has not changed into an egophoric auxiliary verb. Because of the extensive and consistent linguistic annotation of our corpora, we will be able to systematically study subtle differences in use of verbs like 'byung'. Since our corpora will not only contain morphosyntactic annotation, but information about meaning and function in discourse context as well, we will be in a unique position to investigate complex grammatical phenomena like egophoricity. Investigating this in a historical context gives us the opportunity to test theories of languages change that make predictions about triggers and mechanisms of change in particular. Are language-internal factors (e.g. changes in phonology) responsible for the emergence of egophoric marking, can language-external factors (language contact) play a role and/or can we observe a combination of factors in these languages that have throughout history been spoken by people in close promixity in Nepal? Finally, since even closely-related Tibetan and Newar varieties exhibit some significant differences, comparison with egophoric marking on other languages can provide further clues on this complex phenomenon. In the final year of the project, we will therefore put our findings from Tibetan and Newar in crosslinguistic perspective.
  • Funding Agency
    • Arts and Humanities Research Council Research
  • Date From
    • Oct 2021
  • Date To
    • Sept 2025



International Association for Tibetan Studies 2010

Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland 2009

Philological Society 2009

Signet Society of Arts and Letters 2002