Raksit T. Lau-Preechathammarach

I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Linguistics Department at UC Berkeley. My research seeks to understand the mechanisms and triggers of language change, focusing on speech perception and production. I am particularly interested in what conditions and factors give rise to a situation that is ripe for change and have explored these questions through methods including laboratory experiments, corpus analysis, and computational simulation. My areal focus is Northeast Thailand, but I also work with Southern Ryukyuan languages on the Yaeyama Islands in Japan.

My dissertation, co-advised by Susan Lin and Andrew Garrett, looks at the question of how tonogenesis spread throughout Mainland Southeast Asia by examining the role of multilingualism and transitioning social situations in the present day in shifting cue weights in Kuy, an Austroasiatic language spoken at the border of Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos.

I can be contacted at raksit@berkeley.edu

Primary Research Interests
Laboratory Phonology (and methodological adaptation to fieldwork contexts)
Sound Change (especially Tonogenesis)
Cues & Contrast and the Perception-Production Link
Language Contact and Multilingualism
Language Documentation, Preservation, and Revitalization
Picture of me


Why is tone an areal feature often found across unrelated languages? I investigate this question in the context of Mainland Southeast Asia, exploring the hypothesis that bi-/multilingualism may trigger changes in cue weighting through a perception and production study on a voice quality contrast in Kuy [kdt] (Katuic, Austroasiatic) as spoken in Sisaket, Thailand. The results suggest that a speaker's usage of a tonal language can lead to heavier weighting of f0 cues in their usage of a non-tonal language and that time away from home and identity can lead to weaker weighting of voice quality cues. These changes may have been actuated by the recent rapid modernization and centralization of Thailand. This case study provides contemporary evidence for multilingualism as one mechanism that may have played a role in the prehistoric spread of tone in Mainland Southeast Asia.

A Pathway to Tonogenesis: Shifting Language Dynamics in Kuy and the Perception-Production Link. Laboratory Phonology 17. University of British Columbia: Vancouver, BC, Canada (held virtually). 2020. picture_as_pdf
Generational Differences in Phonation and Tone in Kuy. 8th International Conference on Austroasiatic Languages (ICAAL). Chiang Mai University: Chiang Mai, Thailand. 2019. picture_as_pdf
Decay of Breathy Phonation in Austroasiatic Languages of Northeastern Thailand. Southeast Asian Linguistics Society (SEALS) 29. Tokyo, Japan. picture_as_pdf

What factors in speech perception and production lead to metathesis? In a project with Andrew Garrett, we look at a process of incipient metathesis in VCV sequences in Karuk [kyh] and its source in speaker-driven perceptual enhancement of a weakened cue. I have also explored the role of variability and magnitude of gestural overlap in triggering ambiguity of segmental order by investigating the acoustic correlates of gestural overlap in the Buckeye Corpus.

The Emergence of Consonant-Vowel Metathesis in Karuk (first author: Andrew Garrett). Annual Meeting of The Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas (SSILA). Salt Lake City, UT, USA. 2018. picture_as_pdf
Mining Corpora for Gestural Timing Differences as a Precursor to Metathesis. The 42nd Penn Linguistics Conference (PLC). Philadelphia, PA, USA. 2018. picture_as_pdf

How can computational modeling inform us about directionality in language change? To explore this question, I simulated changes in the nominal system from Latin to the descendant Romance languages using neural nets as a model of paradigm learning, evaluating the role of sound change and chance in morphological change. The results suggests that the system of Latin was in a state that was biased in the direction of syncretism.

Applications of Computational Simulation to Morphological Class Change: A Case Study in Romance. In Proceedings of the 28th Annual UCLA Indo-European Conference, eds. David Goldstein, Stephanie Jamison, & Brent Vine. 185–212. Hempen Verlag. 2018. picture_as_pdf
From Latin to Romance: Computational Modeling of Syncretism (with Maria Polinsky and Jake Seaton). The 2nd Edinburgh Symposium on Historical Phonology (ESHP). University of Edinburgh: Edinburgh, UK. 2015. (poster) picture_as_pdf

I have been involved with documentation and preservation efforts of Yaeyaman [rys] and Yonaguni [yoi]. In this process, I have also worked with others to create revitalization materials. An in-progress website for learning Meeramuni (Miyara) Yaeyaman, created with the help of heritage speaker Madoka Hammine (半嶺まどか) and linguistics major Wendy Lau, with voice recordings by Arakaki Shigeo (新垣重雄) and artwork by linguistics major Samantha Gies may be found here. In another project, I worked with Yamane Keiko (山根慶子) to translate the hit song Let It Go from Disney's Frozen into her language, Shikamuni (Ishigaki) Yaeyaman. The Shikamuni version, sung by a member of the Ishigaki community, may be found here.

Reevaluating the Diphthong Mergers in Japono-Ryukyuan. In Proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, eds. Anna E. Jurgensen, Hannah Sande, Spencer Lamoureux, Kenny Baclawski, and Alison Zerbe. 287–305. Berkeley Linguistics Society. 2015. picture_as_pdf
Tense, Aspect, and Mood in Miyara Yaeyaman (first author: Christopher Davis). In Handbook of the Ryukyuan Languages: History, Structure, and Use, eds. Patrick Heinrich, Shinsho Miyara, & Michinori Shimoji. 253–297. Mouton de Gruyter. 2015. picture_as_pdf
Phonological Reduction and the (Re)Emergence of Attributive Forms in Yaeyama Ryukyuan (with Christopher Davis). In Japanese/Korean Linguistics, Vol. 23, eds. Theodore Levin, Ryo Masuda, & Michael Kenstowicz. 291–306. CSLI Publications. 2014. picture_as_pdf
Aspectual Distinction via Pitch Accent in Yaeyaman. 14th European Association of Japanese Studies International Conference (EAJS). University of Ljubljana: Ljubljana, Slovenia. 2014. picture_as_pdf

Teaching & Mentorship

As Instructor
Year Semester Course No. Course Title Syllabus
2018 Summer LING 100 Introduction to Linguistic Science picture_as_pdf
As Graduate Student Instructor
Year Semester Course No. Course Title Instructor
2020 Fall LING 110 Phonetics Keith Johnson
2020 Spring LING 155AC Language in the United States:
A Capsule History
Richard A. Rhodes
2019 Spring LING 100 Introduction to Linguistic Science Stephanie Farmer
2017 Fall LING 130 Comparative and Historical Linguistics Andrew Garrett
2017 Spring LING 100 Introduction to Linguistic Science Andrew Garrett
2016 Fall LING 130 Comparative and Historical Linguistics Andrew Garrett

Through UC Berkeley's Linguistics Research Apprentice Practicum (LRAP), I have had the honor of mentoring and working alongside many bright undergraduate students on a variety of research projects.

Duration Project Mentees
2019 Spring – Voice Quality & Tone in Austroasiatic Languages Margaret Asperheim, Bethany Auclair, Renee Cong,
Jenkin Leung, Nicole Kim, Melissa Milligan
Geetanshi Sharma, Melody Tran, Stacey Vu
Qing Yang Wang, Crystal Wang, Ivori White, Cynthia Zhong
2018 Spring, 2019 Spring Preservation of Yaeyama and Yonaguni Languages Amelia Fineberg, Samantha Gies, Wendy Lau, Charles Muldoon, Mayu Nagafuchi
2018 Spring Educational Technology to Improve Northern Pomo Literacy (with Edwin Ko and Julia Nee) Marcus Monterroso, Daniel Vazquez
2018 Spring Perceptual Bias Factors in Sound Change Anstonia Ma
2017 Fall The Role of Production in Metathesis Anstonia Ma

Mystery Language! Introduction to Linguistic Analysis

On March 8th, 2020, Edwin Ko, Wendy Liz Arbey López Márquez, and I introduced high schoolers to the basics of linguistic analysis by conducting a field methods-like class with Wendy's native language, Nuntajɨɨyi (Sierra Popoluca) [poi], a Mixe-Zoque language of Veracruz, Mexico. The students participated in elicitation of basic vocabulary and sentences to gain an appreciation for pattern-seeking and linguistic puzzles. This class was taught through Splash at Berkeley, a program under Learning Unlimited, whose goal is to recruit university students to teach high school students on a subject they are passionate about.

Picture of Edwin, Wendy, and me with the students at Splash

About Me

My name is pronounced ['ɹak.sɪt] or ['ɹʌk.sɪt] in English. In Thai (รักษ์สิทธิ์), it's pronounced pretty much how it's romanized, with some tone added in [ráksìt]. Lau (劉) is my father's last name, from Teochew [láo], while Preechathammarach (ปรีชาธรรมรัช) [pri:.tɕa:.tʰam.ma.rát] is my mother's (you can pronounce it like "pree-cha-tummer-rut"). My pronouns are he/him/his. My three sisters and I were all born and raised in New York City and, like many Thai immigrants, our family is in the restaurant industry. If you find yourself in New York, check out Thank You Come Again and Thai Sliders if you're craving Thai food and Ramen Goku if you're craving Japanese! Like my family, I love cooking as well—you can check out some dishes I've made in the slideshow (still working on my plating and photography skills)!

© Raksit T. Lau-Preechathammarach | Updated July 2020