Research Interests

My research is aimed at the documentation, description and historical-comparative exploration of endangered minority languages of Nepal and Bhutan belonging to the Trans-Himalayan/Sino-Tibetan language family, with a focus on the Kiranti languages of eastern Nepal. Additional projects involve the Tamang language in Nepal and the languages Lhokpu, Gongduk, Brokpa and Tshangla in Bhutan. Further research interests are phonology, pragmatics and its role in language change, person marking and agreement morphology as well as language isolates. I am also interested in the theoretical foundations, methods and research history of historical linguistics.


Ph.D.-Project: Vergleich und Rekonstruktion der Oberarun-Sprachen (Kiranti) [Comparison and Reconstruction of the Upper Arun languages (Kiranti)]

The aim of this Ph.D. project is to compare the phonology and selected areas of the morphology of the three languages Mewahang, Lohorung and Yamphu, which together form the «Upper Arun» group of the Kiranti branch of Trans-Himalayan/Sino-Tibetan, and to elaborate a first reconstruction of their common ancestor, i.e. Proto-Upper Arun. Since Mewahang is a so far undescribed language, the project involves primary field work on-site in the Mewahang speaking area in the Sankhuwa and Arun river valleys of Sankhuwasabha district of eastern Nepal. Besides the historical-comparative main aim of the thesis, the data gathered are also used for a first descriptive sketch of the western dialect of Mewahang as spoken mainly in Bala village in the Sankhuwa valley. Data for the other two Upper Arun languages come from both published (Rutgers (1998) on Yamphu, van Driem (1992) on Lohorung) and unpublished (van Driem (n.d.) on Lohorung) sources. The three Upper Arun languages are compared by means of the comparative method, the standard tool for the comparison and reconstruction of related languages. In the process, the phylogenetic validity of the so far empirically unsubstantiated Upper Arun branch will be tested by searching for and proposing shared innovations. Since the Upper Arun branch occupies an ambiguous position within Kiranti, sharing innovations with two other branches (Khambu and Greater Yakkha-Limbu/Tamar), the findings of this thesis are expected to provide new insights on the phylogeny of Kiranti in general and to serve as a point of departure for broader comparative studies. This Ph.D. thesis was submitted in July 2023 and defended in September 2023 (predicate summa cum laude).


For more information on Mewahang and my research