Antoinette Schapper's picture
Affiliated Fellow
Antoinette Schapper

Although contiguous, the South Asian and Southeast Asian Linguistic Areas have been regarded by linguists as separate units of analysis, each characterized by its own distinct structural features. Examples of characteristics typical of each linguistic area include: in South Asia, retroflexion of consonants, suffixing morphology, and verb-final word order (e.g., Masica 1976, Emeneau 1956, 1980: 197-249); in Southeast Asia, sesquisyllables, isolating structure, and serial verb constructions (e.g., Enfield 2005, Dahl 2008). These patterns reflect long histories of mutual interaction and convergence between the different langauges within each area. Whilst we know that some South Asian languages (Sanskrit, Prakrits, Tamil) have also influenced Southeast Asian languages, studies by several generations of scholars have up to now identified in Southeast Asia only a 'superstratum' of South Asian loan words, an overlay of Indic influence on the vocabularies - but not structures- of Southeast Asian languages (e.g., Gonda 1973). Even more limited is the recognized lexical influence of Southeast Asian languages in South Asia (e.g., Kern 1894, 1897, Hoogervorst 2012).

In my research I will explore the possibility that other, perhaps deeper, linguistic connections also exist between the two areas. Specifically, I will investigate a shared lexical semantic pattern whereby the meanings “to smell” and “to kiss” are encoded by one and the same root. This pattern is widespread across Monsoon Asia and relates in turn to a cultural practice, that of 'smell-kissing', that was once common in both South and Southeast Asia.


  • Linguistics of Southeast Asia

Country of origin


Period of stay at IIAS

01/10/2018 to 30/11/2018

Home institute

Research topic

The history of the smell-kiss in South and Southeast Asia

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