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Descriptive Linguistics


In this region researchers at LUCL have specific expertise in studying Austronesian and Papuan languages. China is another important region where Leiden linguists conduct research.

Language is key to understanding socio-cultural history of populations, especially in this region, where historical records, archaeological and ethnographic data are not readily available.

Austronesian and Papuan

Approximately 1200 Austronesian languages and about 800 Papuan are spoken in Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea, making up about a third of the world’s languages. These include majority languages such as Indonesian, Malay and Javanese but also hundreds of minority languages, such as Leti, Teiwa, Abui, Alorese and Kambera. The region’s rich linguistic diversity is under threat as many of the minority languages have no written tradition and are undocumented.

Research includes describing and comparing these under-described languages by means of extensive field work. Researchers not only write grammars but by comparing words and language structures, they also uncover clues about the history of local communities, migration movements as well as the types of contacts they had in the past. Being in close contact with local communities allows researchers to take account of oral traditions, their history and culture.


At LUCL researchers also study various topics related to China. 

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