About me

My path to linguistics

I grew up in a rural setting in a settlement of merely 60 people in the canton of Zürich in Switzerland. While my public education required me to learn French, English, and Latin, my passion for languages soon drove me to the study of Spanish, Finnish, and Hawaiian. I ended up writing my graduation paper on linguistic relativity.

Entering the University of Zürich in 2008, I first specialized in comparative Indo-European linguistics, taking various courses in historical linguistics, in Greek, Sanskrit, Hittite, and Old Prussian. With Chinese Studies as my minor, I spent half of 2010 in Taiwan at the Taiwan Normal University (台灣師範大學) to polish my Mandarin. During this time, I undertook several trips to different indigenous communities on the island, who all speak different languages. When I graduated with my BA in 2012, I wrote my thesis about transitivity in Formosan languages.

After graduation, I started working at the University of Zürich as a research assistant on a typology database. This work required me to read grammars all day, and encode the information on syntactic alignment systems into the database. Also during this time, Mathias Jenny sparked my interest in Austroasiatic languages, and sent me out on my first field trip to Northern Thailand to work with the Mlabri. A few years later, this project bore fruit in the form of a sketch grammar in the Brill Handbook of Austroasiatic Languages.

In 2012, I moved to Canada to pursue my MA. I fulfilled my coursework in record time, and spent the rest of the time with the Coast Salish people of Vancouver Island. Living within their rich tradition – singing, dancing, paddling, hunting, smoking fish, frequenting longhouse ceremonies – made me an expert of their language Hul’q’umi’num’, which nowadays is spoken by fewer than 50 elders. Applying my experience to my thesis, I investigated the syntax and pragmatics of different clause linking methods.

Finally, I moved to Hawaiʻi in the summer of 2014, the day after I defended my MA thesis in Vancouver. Here, I have been fortunate to work with Robert Blust, Lyle Campbell, William O’Grady, Gary Holton, and Andrea Berez on various projects. Visit my Research site to read more about my current projects. During my education at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, I have been continuing my research in Thailand and on Vancouver Island, while also starting documentation in Taiwan and the Philippines.

About my name(s)

You may have seen my name spelled in different ways: Bätscher or Baetscher. While this alternation is intuitive to people familiar with German, it can confuse other people. The <ae> spelling of the umlaut is a practical alternative for when the original <ä> is not available. My name is pronounced [ˈb̥æt͡ʃər] in my native Zürich German.

To add a little more to the confusion, people know me exclusively by other names in different countries: I’m 言凱明 (Pinyin Yán Kǎi Míng) or Teymu Numa in Taiwan, and นาวิน [nāːwin] in Thailand. In Hawaiʻi, some people know me as Kahaʻi.