Alexander D. Smith

I am lecturer of linguistics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. I received my Ph.D. from the University of Hawai‘i 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 Hawai‘i 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.

Kayanic comparative vocabularies



I recently presented two papers at the 2022 SEALS conference. You can see them here.

I'll also be at AFLA this year. Check out the conference website.

My latest paper is out in Diachronica: Environmental factors affect the evolution of linguistic subgroups in Borneo.

I'll have a response to Sagart's numeral based phylogeny in the next Oceanic Linguistics volume and I am currently working on a new approach to Malayo-Polynesian subgrouping which I hope will completely change the way we talk about these languages and their inter-relatedness. Fun stuff coming up!


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