©2017 by Raksit T. Lau. Proudly created with Wix.com

I am a fifth-year graduate student in the Linguistics Department at UC Berkeley. My interest lies primarily in understanding the mechanisms and triggers of language change, primarily on tonogenesis and the sociolinguistic factors involved in the change. I am also interested in the phonetics of register and tone, historical linguistics, and documentation and preservation of endangered languages of Isan (Northeast Thailand) (Kuy [kdt], Thro [sss], and So Thavung [thm]) and Okinawa (Yaeyama [rys] and Yonaguni [yoi]).




I am interested in the actuation problem—why does a change occur in a given language at a given time? Tonogenesis, the process by which a non-tonal language becomes tonal, occurred in various Mainland Southeast Asian languages approximately 1000 years ago. One hypothesis is that this was due to pervasive multilingualism in the area. A number of languages in Thailand have been recently described as becoming or having become tonogenetic. I explore the hypothesis that the centralization of Thailand in recent times has led to many speakers of endangered languages being dominant in Thai and has catalyzed a bias for a non-tonal distinction to become reanalyzed as a tonal one. I look at Kuy, a language in northeastern Thailand, as a case study. While Kuy has a register contrast between breathy and clear voice, I find evidence from a production experiment the phonation distinction is gradually collapsing in favor of a pitch distinction and that this change is linked to greater use of Thai/Lao and greater integration into Thai society.

  • (2018) Lau, Raksit T. "Generational Differences in Phonation and Tone in Kuy". 8th International Conference on Austroasiatic Languages (ICAAL). Chiang Mai, Thailand. [PDF]


What factors in speech perception and production lead to metathesis? My research explores the role of variability and magnitude of gestural overlap in creating an ambiguous signal that can cause confusion in segmental order. This research involves investigating the acoustic correlates of gestural overlap in the Buckeye Corpus. The preliminary findings are in accordance with previous experimental work on gestural overlap in consonant clusters. In another project under joint work with Andrew Garrett, we look at incipient metathesis in Karuk [kyh] and its source in speaker-driven perceptual enhancement of a weakened cue.

  • (2018) Garrett, Andrew & Tyler Lau . “The Emergence of Consonant-Vowel Metathesis in Karuk” Annual Meeting of The Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas (SSILA) . Salt Lake City, UT, USA. [PDF]

Modeling Morphological Change

How can computational modeling inform us about directionality in language change? I simulate changes in the nominal system from Latin to the descendant Romance languages using neural nets as a model of paradigm learning. The study evaluates the role of sound change and chance in the change and suggests that the system of Latin was already biased in the direction of syncretism.

  • (2018) Lau, Tyler. “Applications of Computational Simulation to Morphological Class Change”. In Proceedings of the 28th Annual UCLA Indo-European Conference, eds. David Goldstein, Stephanie Jamison, & Brent Vine. 185-212. Hempen Verlag. [link]

Endangered Languages & Revitalization Materials

I carry out fieldwork in two areas: Northeastern Thailand and the Yaeyaman Islands of Okinawa. I have been involved with documentation and preservation efforts of Yaeyaman [rys], Yonaguni [yoi], and Kuy [kdt], working with others to create revitalization materials and participating in discussions on orthography. An in-progress website for learning Miyara (a variety of Yaeyaman), created with the help of heritage speaker Madoka Hammine and undergraduate programmer Wendy Lau may be found here.

Teaching & Mentorship


  • Spring 2019

    • Linguistics 100: Introduction to Linguistic Science​​
      Graduate Student Instructor for Stephanie Farmer


  • Summer 2018

    • Linguistics 100: Introduction to Linguistic Science​​


  • Fall 2017

    • Linguistics 130: Comparative and Historical Linguistics
      Graduate Student Instructor for Andrew Garrett


  • Spring 2016

    • Linguistics 100: Introduction to Linguistic Science
      Graduate Student Instructor for Andrew Garrett


  • Fall 2016

    • Linguistics 130: Comparative and Historical Linguistics
      Graduate Student Instructor for Andrew Garrett

Mentorship: Linguistics Research Apprenticeship Program

  • Fall 2019
    • Voice Quality& Tone  in Austroasiatic Languages
      Rong (Renee) Cong, Nicole Kim, Melissa Milligan, Geetanshi Sharma, Melody Tran,  Irene Yi
  • Spring 2019 
    • Voice Quality & Tone in Austroasiatic Languages
      Qing Yang Wang
    • Preservation of Yaeyaman and Yonaguni Languages
      Amelia Fineberg, Wendy Lau
  • Spring 2018​​
    • Perceptual Bias Factors in Sound Change
      Anstonia Ma
    • Preservation of Yaeyaman and Yonaguni Languages
      Samantha Gies, Mayu Nagafuchi, Charles Muldoon
    • Educational Technology to Improve Northern Pomo Literacy
      (with Julia Nee and Edwin Ko)

      Daniel Vazquez, Marcus Monterroso
  • Fall 2017
    • The Role of Production in Metathesis
      Anstonia Ma
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