Sireemas Maspong

Linguistics Ph.D. candidate,
Cornell University

I am a Ph.D. student in Linguistics at Cornell University. I work on phonetics, phonology, and historical linguistics with a focus on Southeast Asian languages. I am also a member of the Cornell Phonetics Lab.


I am interested in understanding the mechanisms of language change using historical and experimental methods.
I have been studying vowel quality changes in languages with tone/register.
I mainly work on languages of Southeast Asia.

Selected Publications

to appear Re-examining initial geminates: typology, evolutionary, phonology, and phonetics. Papers from the 24th International Conference on Historical Linguistics.
(with Francesco Burroni)
2021 Functional Load modulates speech production, but not speech perception: Evidence from Thai vowel length. Proceedings of the 12th International Seminar on Speech Production. [paper]
(with Francesco Burroni)
2020 A new look at Pattani Malay Initial Geminates: a statistical and machine learning approach. Proceedings of the 34th Pacific Asia Conference in Language, Information and Computation. [paper]
(with Francesco Burroni, Pittayawat Pittayaporn, Pimthip Kochaiyaphum)
2019 Length contrast of high vowels in the Thai language of the Sukhothai period: What do the inscriptions say?. Cahier de Linguistique Asie Orientale 48(1), 30-60. 2019. [post-printed paper]

Selected Presentations

2021    Unifying Initial Geminates and fortis stops via laryngeal specification: Three case studies from Pattani Malay, Salentino, and Dunan. AMP 2021. Toronto, ON, Canada. (virtual). [abstract] [slides]
(with Francesco Burroni, Raksit Lau-Preechathammarach)
2020    Functional Load modulates speech production, but not speech perception: Evidence from Thai vowel length. ISSP 2020. Providence, RI, USA. (virtual). [poster]
(with Francesco Burroni)
2020    A new look at Pattani Malay Initial Geminates: a statistical and machine learning approach. PACLIC 34. Hanoi, Vietnam. (virtual). [slides]
(with Francesco Burroni, Pittayawat Pittayaporn, Pimthip Kochaiyaphum)
2020    Interaction of initial geminates and stress: a case study of Pattani Malay. LabPhon 17. Vancouver, Canada. (virtual). [abstract] [poster] [video presentation]
(with Francesco Burroni, Pimthip Kochaiyaphum, Pittayawat Pittayaporn)
2019    Contrast Emergence, Preservation, and Loss: A case study of initial geminates. ICHL 2019. Canberra, Australia. [abstract] [slides]
(with Francesco Burroni)
2018    The genetic relationship between Sukhothai and Ayutthaya. SEALS 28. Kaohsiung, Taiwan. [abstract] [slides]
(with Pittayawat Pittayaporn, Shinnakrit Tangsiriwattanakul, Yanyong Sikkharit)
2018    Production and perception of marginal contrast: Length contrast in Thai mid vowels. SEALS 28. Kaohsiung, Taiwan. [abstract] [slides]


Vowel quality change in the Mon-Khmer languages

Interactions of vowel quality and onset voicing are found across a variety of Mon-Khmer languages. For example, in these languagues, vowels have lower F1 in the breathy register (derived from original voiced onsets in the proto-language) than their modal counterparts (derived from original voiceless onsets). Khmer is an example of a language that display this bifurcation.
My dissertation focuses on the question of how the vowel quality change arose. One part of this project is a historical study of the Khmer inscriptions and rhymes, while the other part is a phonetic study of other Mon-Khmer languages which show similar behaviors.

The effect of Functional Load on production and perception of vowel length contrast

The functional load (FL) of a phonological contrast has been shown to correlate with its resistance to merger on evolutionary timescales. In this project, we study the effect of FL on day-to-day speech, especially in production and perception. Bangkok Thai vowel length contrast is chosen as a case study, as it has been demonstrated that geminate and singleton consonant duration ratios correlate with FL (Tang & Harris, 2014). Accordingly, an obvious extension would be showing that a similar correlation holds for long and short vowel duration ratios as well.
I collaborate with a colleague at Cornell (Francesco Burroni).

Initial geminates in Pattani Malay

Pattani Malay has been cited as a prime example of a language with moraic onsets, as initial geminates are reported to attract stress in this language. This project aims to answer two questions: (i) do initial geminates attract stress as reported in the literature? and (ii) does Pattani Malay have stress and if so, how does is the stress system best described?
I collaborate with colleagues at Cornell (Francesco Burroni) and Chulalongkorn University (Pittayawat Pittayaporn, Pimthip Kochaiyaphum).

Moraic status of initial geminates and their diachronic developments

Initial geminates can be found in a variety of languages and language families. Interestingly, in some languages initial geminates are reported to play a role in weight computation or to be moraic, while in some others they are reported to be non-moraic. It has been argued that moraic initial geminates have a different phonological representation and perhaps phonetics implentation than non-moraic initial geminates. We, however, contend that that the moraic status of the initial geminates is better understood with referenced to their diachony.
For this project, I collaborate with Francesco Burroni.


Aside from the projects above, I am also interested in etymology. I sometimes write short squibs on the etymology of Thai words and post them on a facebook page.
At my house in Thailand, I have two white cats, who sometimes greet me via video call.
I just found out that I enjoy planting herbs and cooking what I have planted.

Contact Information

203 Morrill Hall, Ithaca, NY, 14850