The Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project  The Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project

Thomas Owen-Smith

PhD Student

Tom took his BA in Italian and Modern Greek at the University of Oxford, and came to SOAS for the MA in Language Documentation and Description in 2005-6. In 2010 he returned to SOAS to take his PhD in Field Linguistics, which focuses on the morphosyntax and semantics of Tamang, a Tibeto-Burman language spoken in the Central Himalaya.

Tom spent the year 2011-12 on fieldwork in Nepal, and is now working on writing his thesis. Central questions include the relations between the predicate and arguments (including the roles of the lexicon and pragmatics), definition of independent and subordinate clauses, and the syntactic consequences of nominalization. He is also investigating the concepts of “subject” and “topic” in Tamang syntax; the roles aspect, tense, modality and evidentiality in the verbal system; and aspects of the geographical variation within the language, which is spoken over a wide and sparsely populated upland area.

Other interests include language and cultural contact and their historical dimensions (particularly in the Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan and Turkic language families); historical linguistics and typology; South Asia, the Mediterranean, the Himalaya and all mountain regions; traditional music and song; and links between language and traditional knowledge, the environment and (agri)culture. Tom was first drawn towards linguistics by a love of learning languages, and he speaks with varying fluency English, French, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Turkish, Hindi, Urdu, Nepali and Tamang, to which he hopes to add more in the future.