Linguistics: Dynamics of dialect/ethnicity distinctions among Kri speakers of Laos
Presenter: Prof. Nick Enfield University of Sydney
In upland central Laos, a community of around 500 people living in several villages speak a Vietic language referred to by the endonym “Kri”. Kri speakers live in a socially highly dynamic and multilingual environment. This paper examines two distinct aspects of this dynamicity, and their interrelation, shedding some light on scholarship around the loose and transient connection between (1) linguistic variety and (2) social/ethnic identity. First, I establish certain structural linguistic distinctions between two varieties of Kri known by community members as Kri Mrkaa and Kri Phòòngq. These differences are most notably realised in the phonology: Kri Mrkaa has a phonation-type register system and Kri Phòòngq has a pitch-contour based ‘tone’ system. Second, I look at some recent developments in house construction in Kri-speaking villages and their implications for different cultural and spiritual practices that have until now been reliably associated with the two dialects. Rapid change in practices has confronted Kri Mrkaa speakers with challenges that they are meeting in creative ways. This work is done together with Chip Zuckerman, and is part of an in-progress ARC Discovery Project.
Meeting ID: 91592255274