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An Iu Mien grammar: a tool for language documentation and revitalisation

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posted on 2023-01-19, 09:28 authored by Tatsuro Daniel Arisawa
Submission note: A thesis submitted to the Centre for Research on Language Diversity, and, Department of Languages and Linguistics, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Linguistics [at] La Trobe University, Melbourne.

This is a grammar of Iu Mien language, spoken by some 46,000 Iu Mien people in Thailand, which has been derived from the data collected by the author whilst living among the villages of Chiang Rai and Phayao provinces between 1994–2015. The thesis comprises three parts: (i) the onomastics found in Chinese-written documents, literature review, Thailand’s National Language Policy draft, (ii) the grammatical descriptions in seventeen chapters, (iii) the representative text and metalanguage in the appendices. The data have been collected through cultural immersion method, the grammar analysed through judicious monolingual discussions with the native speakers to secure description on its own terms, and presented with occasional forays into information structure, Construction Grammar and Cognitive Grammar; occasionally addressing matters of typology. A grammatical description of Iu Mien is momentous because the existing literature is (i) heavily inclined toward historical linguistics, (ii) a grammar written in English is dated, (iii) many published grammars are sketchy, only written in Chinese, (iv) a recent reference grammar written in Chinese mostly presents the parts-of-speech and sentence patterns with no analyses. The grammar establishes seven operational principles found in the structure of Iu Mien: (1) Topic-Focus orientation, (2) multilayered focus structure with prominence on the sentence final position, (3) verb-medial word order, not necessarily SVO, (4) versatility of verbs used for aspect, modality, multi-verb constructions, etc., (5) vague distinction across “parts-of-speech”, (6) sentence final particles as epistemic grounding elements, (7) culturally affected argument structure, i.e. the relationship between verbs and noun phrases in a sentence. The goal of this thesis is to describe Iu Mien making the grammar accessible both to linguists and also to those in Iu Mien-speaking communities in Thailand, the US, and elsewhere; thus all example sentences are interlinearised tri-scripturally, i.e. IPA, the Romanised script, and the Thai-based Iu Mien orthography.


Center or Department

School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Centre for Research on Language Diversity. Department of Languages and Linguistics.

Thesis type

  • Ph. D.

Awarding institution

La Trobe University

Year Awarded


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The thesis author retains all proprietary rights (such as copyright and patent rights) over the content of this thesis, and has granted La Trobe University permission to reproduce and communicate this version of the thesis. The author has declared that any third party copyright material contained within the thesis made available here is reproduced and communicated with permission. If you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact us with the details.

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