Alexander D. Smith

I am lecturer of linguistics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. I received my Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa in 2017. My dissertation was a classification of the languages of Borneo, an island the size of the US state of Texas, and an area of considerable linguistic diversity. I also taught at the University of Hawaii and served as the project coordinator of the Endangered Languages Project and Catalogue of Endangered Languages (


I am a historical linguist, Austronesianist, and have a special interest in diachronic phonology and metrical theory, especially diachronic OT, which utilizes constraint reranking as a trigger for historical phonological change. My research relies heavily on an active fieldwork schedule, and I have spent several months each year in Malaysia and Indonesia conducting linguistic research on Borneo.  I have recently been intrigued by the prospect of working on the Austro-Tai hypothesis.

Archived Materials:

Materials from my fieldwork are stored at the Kaipuleohone language archive, hosted at the University of Hawaiʻi.



My latest is in Oceanic linguistics and covers the historical phonology of Hliboi, a Bidayuh language of Indonesia with a very interesting history of sound change. I have an upcoming paper in Diachronica along with my colleague Taraka Rama. Preprint here. In that paper we use Bayesian inference to create a new tree of Bornean languages and use it to show how environmental factors, such as large river systems, influence the development of Bornean subgroups. Current projects include a look at the history of schwa-initial words in Austronesian, which I argue are historically secondary, an attempted analysis of reduplicative phenomena in Roviana, a reconstruction of Proto-Austronesian stress, and more.


I am contributing three chapters to an upcoming volume on the Austronesian languages of Southeast Asia. I am covering current theory in Malayo-Polynesian internal subgrouping, Bornean linguistic typology, and the historical linguistics of the languages of Borneo.

Baram River