Thursday 10 May 2012

On Learning Lao (Fascicle 1)

 (1) This is an article with a few remarks on learning the Lao language in a political, cultural and textual context that is rapidly changing, and a few illustrations that may be of practical use for people learning the language (or considering whether or not they should do so).

When I first started studying the interaction between Lao and Pali (i.e., between the modern vernacular and the ancient, dead language) a colleague remarked to me in an e-mail that Lao was probably the weakest of all the literary traditions that I could study, but perhaps, he thought, I preferred it for that reason; just a few years later, a German-funded project at the Lao National Library made this formerly-marginal tradition the best-digitized, best-indexed, most accessible and most legible manuscript tradition in the Theravāda world.

Although a tiny minority of the (extant) literary corpus in Laos is composed in "monolingual Pali" (as David Wharton would say) that minority of manuscripts is now legible (and instantly accessible) in a way that no other collection ever has been.  Plenty of people can look at that website and think, "Sri Lanka should have done this decades ago" --but they didn't.  You could say that European agencies with major collections should have done this decades ago (e.g., the EFEO or JRULM) --but they didn't.

In the few years that I worked on Lao, the language made the transition from being "under-resourced" to relatively "over-resourced".  For the first time, just last week, a professor complained to me that Laos is now "over-researched", so crowded is the tiny country with anthropologists hunting down PhD theses, in comparison to Yunnan or Vietnam, where conditions are harder.  I attribute this to the "pizza and coffee" theory of anthropology: western authors will seek out those research opportunities that are new, exotic, strange, and yet conveniently located within a few minutes of restaurants serving pizza and coffee.  In many ways, the last 20 years witnessed an upsurge of research (of all kinds) as Lao cities like Vientiane and Luang Phabang raced to catch up with Northern Thailand's Chiang Mai in providing amenities of exactly this kind (that are the subconscious prerequisites for many a researcher and journalist living "in the field", but, in fact, working in an air conditioned office).

(2) The awkward phrase "under-resourced" is part of the technical vocabulary I used to see in Unicode proposals (attempting to standardize computing in Lao and many other languages).  Many of the old resources I used for Lao (like Cambodian) were produced by the U.S. military (with emphasis on vocabulary related to ammunition, airplanes, and haggling over cigarettes); others were produced by the French Empire, and the newest (of that era) were produced by Christian missionaries, and the then-new generation of missionary-run schools.

Some of the most memorable language resources that I laid eyes upon were hand-made textbooks produced for use on refugee camps (some of them looked more like they were mimeographed than photocopied).  These often had very simple pencil-line illustrations, and tried to reproduce what was basically an American notion of what education was supposed to be: Isaac Newton sees the apple fall under a tree, and so on.  Those resources can still be found in libraries, but they have no ISBN, no stated author, and present a puzzle to both archivists and students of the languages in question.

What was the next generation of resources that followed this?  Symptomatically enough of glasnost in Southeast Asia, they were the textbooks produced under the patronage of the Australian government (although one Lao-German dictionary emerged from work completed in former East Germany).  More immediately visible were the language resources produced for the new economy of international tourism (in some cases, these were made by tourists for tourists).  What had been one of the most isolated countries in the world was suddenly becoming a highway to link China, Vietnam, and Thailand; while I was there, Cambodia and Burma remained distant places in the Lao imagination (in several contexts in Vientiane, I asked if anyone had heard of a Lao student learning Burmese or Cambodian, and I was uniformly told "no", although the people I asked about this would reflect at once that the country would need people with such skills in the future).

(3) What about the internet and the advent of digital literacy?  One of the peculiar dynamics of Lao (as a language) is that the majority of people who speak it do not read and write in Lao: their written language is instead Thai, and they generally find Lao orthography incomprehensible, living with a kind of day-to-day diglossia (reading Thai but speaking Lao).  Foreigners tend to massively over-estimate the similarity of Thai and Lao as languages; what they are observing is not, in fact, the similarity of the languages, but the skill of so many locals in switching between the two.

As Nick Enfield put it (back in the days when he was one of the only linguists in the field), "The high level of ethnic and linguistic diversity in Laos means that there is a complex web of linguistic and cultural contact, by which members of different cultural groups and societies will be multilingual and multicultural to various degrees."*¹

Numerically, there are more speakers of Lao (as a first language) living in Thailand than in the republic of Laos; part of the reason for this is the ethnic diversity that exists within Laos (more on that below, but, for those of you running to check Wikipedia, the basic warning that you should take from this is simply that you can't look at the total population of Laos and presume it to be ethnically Lao, nor can you even presume that the non-Lao can understand Lao as a second language).  Although it isn't the subject of this article, I should also mention, of course, that the region has had a long history of devastating warfare with ongoing ramifications as to which language is now spoken where (and, of course, for who has been able to survive here, there, and everywhere).

One result of this situation is that the language has vastly more resources than a tiny (and impoverished) country like Laos could create or support for itself, but that many of these are transcribed in Thai script, and are neither packaged nor sold to foreigners as Lao language resources.

The huge "literature" of Isan music-videos and comedy films (produced in Thailand, but spoken in various dialects of Lao) that a researcher might first encounter as unwanted noise during a bus trip are a major resource for students of the language at every level (although you won't be able to get them subtitled in Lao).  I have met just one Thai who admitted that she became fluent in Lao almost entirely through singing Isan karaoke; however, this type of language practice would not teach reading comprehension of either language.  Even so (and even if Isan pop culture doesn't suit your tastes) this can be compared to the dire situation of language resources for Cree, Ojibwe, or even Pali, none of which have karaoke or comedy films available for students to practice with.

On the literary end of the spectrum, I have visited a number of manuscript projects in Isan, most of which were devoted to traditional literature in the local vernacular (variously referred to as "Tai Noi", "Old Lao", or, often enough, the dialect found in local manuscripts is referred to by the name of the nearest river, or a former dukedom/principality); there is remarkably little interest in Pali manuscripts, and the universities that I visited throughout Thailand or Laos had neither students nor professors learning reading comprehension of Pali.

For Lao, all of these resources have crowded onto the internet in a disorganized fashion (and no standardized transcription), with the early impetus coming from (i) overseas Lao, living in France, the U.S., etc., and (ii) the Lao of Isan, Thailand.  In the next decade, it seems inevitable that the Lao within Laos will have a greater portion of the online presence of their language; however, when I lived in Laos, the obvious barriers to such a presence remained in place, namely, (i) illiteracy, (ii) poverty, and (iii) lack of access to electricity.

It also deserves to be said that the Lao literati are consumers of books produced in languages other than Lao: apart from the obvious saturation of Thai in the country, the Vietnamese language still has tremendous importance (as a language of learning), and the remnants of French and German are now being replaced by English and Chinese as international secondary languages.  The one and only study of literacy in Vientiane that I read (in its uncensored form) stated that in the Lao capital more books were read in Vietnamese than in any other language (including Lao!).  When asked what language they had read a book in (during the last year), 56% of respondents who had read a book at all stated Vietnamese; only 28% stated Lao, with English (10%) and Thai (6%) following thereafter.*²  Thus, while Thai has such prominence on television screens in the country, it is not a language that books are (commonly) read in, although there's a limited extent to which we can say books are commonly read at all.  That statistic dates from 1997–8, and while I'm certain the response would now be different, it would be hard to place bets on the direction of the change, partly because the statistic measures a small elite in the capital, and a self-selecting minority who choose to read books: only 5.5% of the respondents to the survey said that they had "read or looked at" a book during the prior year.

When I was in Vientiane, a technician (such as an electrical engineer) was very likely to rely on manuals written in either (i) Vietnamese, or else, more rarely (ii) German, and, much more rarely still, (iii) Russian (this reflects the program of technical assistance that linked Laos with East Germany under Communism; the Lao-German Technical College is one legacy of this, and, despite rumors linking it to France, the national beer of Laos is another such legacy).  It seems difficult to believe that this hierarchy of languages will remain unchanged: digitally, it should become easier and easier to translate (or at least transcribe) Thai resources into Lao, and, as aforementioned, it seems inevitable that both Chinese and English will play an increasing role as reference languages (e.g., as the languages now found on the packaging of medicines and chemicals, if not in the manuals that people refer to in technical professions).

I remember that it seemed to be a shockingly original suggestion when I suggested to a Lao official that, in the future, the Lao government would replace its (then-struggling) French-language newspaper with one in Chinese, Japanese, or both.  The official whom I stated this to was stunned, thought about it for a moment, and then agreed that it seemed inevitable, given the mix of charity and commerce that was then coming from the countries in question.

(4) Lao officials insisted to me a number of times that the term "ethnic minority" should never be used (nor "minority language") as the sum of all the minorities in Laos added up to the majority; conversely, you would never hear the lowland Lao refer to themselves as a minority in their own country, and the notion of who qualifies as "Lao" was somewhat in flux at that time (in Vientiane I would typically hear remarks along the lines of, "Everyone in Laos is Lao… except for the Hmong, I suppose…").

Some of the illustrations on Laos's paper currency (the Kip) continue to depict three ethnic strata in the country corresponding to altitude; this is a theory that originates, unbelievably enough, with third-rate research conducted by Edmund Leach in Burma, and not with the Lao Communist Party.  Of course, as in so many nations around the world, the printed currency expresses successive stages of propaganda, and at any given moment always seem slightly out of date with the government's mandate:

"During the rule of the [pre-Communist] RLG the political elite stressed the relation between kingship and Buddhism. Icons representing economical and technological development, which appeared at the end of RLG rule, became dominant after the [Communist] revolution of 1975. Socialist iconography replaced the Buddhist icons—a new national ideology based on the socialist transformation of the society was established. However, the revival of Buddhist iconography during the 90s demonstrated the importance of traditional cultural values for the constitution of a national identity. The process of nation-building in Laos as a discourse now includes clear cultural references by connecting the revolutionary struggle to the Lao Buddhist heritage."

Although Oliver Tappe (quoted above) does not mention the (European) origin of the "three altitudes" theory of ethnicity, he does draw attention to the fact that this appeared (emblematically) on the bills produced in 1991, but then did not reappear on the new banknotes designed thereafter until 2008 ("The multi-ethnic national community displayed on the 1000 Kip note from 1991 appears as a short episode even though it is still highlighted in official party rhetoric." ibid.).

1991 was also the year when the image of a Buddhist temple quite literally replaced the hammer-and-sickle at the centre of the national insignia/coat-of-arms (appearing on the currency, and seen on official buildings, publications, etc. etc.); however, Tappe does not mention that the particular Buddhist temple in question (generally transliterated as the "That Luang") is an entirely modern construction, built by the French, with an architectural shape and style that did not exist in Laos prior to French occupation.  Both examples reflect a struggle to construct a pluralistic "nationalism" out of components that were created by Europeans with Eurocentric assumptions (and I would remind the reader that Communism itself is a European and Eurocentric "component" in this analogy, although I've met plenty of Lao who were unclear on the ethnicity of "Lenin-Marx", whom they thought of as a single person with a hyphenated name).

Overall, the era of the new (Australian-funded) curriculum is a retreat to reliance upon lowland Lao as the sole language of education; I say "retreat" as I really do not regard the government as acting in positive pursuit of an ideal, but rather as having given up on its former ideals, embarking on an era of muddling by with an ersatz pragmatism, responding to the impetus of various foreign-donor projects and overseas partnerships.  When I discussed this face-to-face with a small group of both Australian and Lao officials (who were then implementing the final stages of the project that produced and distributed the textbooks that are now ubiquitous in the country) I remember that they said to me that all former efforts to produce lessons in local languages had been abandoned, but they assumed that by hiring local people to teach the Lao material, some degree of translation would take place spontaneously in the classroom; of course, it is easy to find case studies where the opposite has transpired, and where there is a clear ethnic (and lingual) division between the teacher and the pupils, with predicable results, and open complaints about the pressure for everyone to assimilate to one standard of being "lowland Lao".

Although I've seen a variety of academic papers on the subject (with a variety of vitriol and histrionics) nobody can deny that the day-to-day reality is merely the government's management of a system that is in a state of dire dysfunction, and the root of many evils is the lack of funds generally, and the abysmally low wages paid to the teachers specifically; my point here is that any effect that a critic may claim the education system has upon the people (good or bad) would be limited simply by the education system's overall lack of effectiveness.  I note, also, that these critiques seem to ignore the fact that (in 2006) 35% of Lao students are educated in the monastic system (not 35% of male students, but 35% of all enrolled students, and, thus, the number will represent a much higher proportion of male students).  Monasticism, military service, and agricultural labor are the larger part of education for a very large part of the male population; and I have often wondered if the work of westerners on the subject of education ignores this, because they only observe a small number of schools in the capital city that are starkly different from the surrounding reality.

I worked in one remote village where the community's single television (showing Thai soap operas, and powered by a "micro-hydro" generator, the size of a boat-motor) was having a tremendous effect on the youth (who gathered in the house of the mayor [or "headman"] to watch these broadcasts nightly) whereas the empty wooden schoolhouse was evidently having no effect at all.  The semester had already started, but the teacher had not arrived; I was given various suggestions as to why this might be, the most probable being that the teacher could be effectively "on strike" until an official paid for his or her transportation to the village, as the salary was so low that teachers could not afford their own bus fare.  In another village, I later witnessed this same phenomenon in reverse: the government officials all went "on strike" until the local governor agreed to provide them with free transportation to their respective home-towns at the start of the annual holiday.  At that time the government employees in question were paid US$15 per month (always described in Lao as "$45 per season"), and would forage for food (in the river and woods) as soon as their day's work at the office ceased.

I'm not saying this to make excuses for anyone in the equation, but merely suggesting that phrases like "assimilationist language policy" conjure up an image of an omnipotent bureaucracy that is actively designing a future society.  Such a critique could only be directed at elite institutions serving a tiny minority of the wealthiest people in Laos.  This is not to say that a critique of elite education would be of zero importance, but rather indicates that it has little contact with the reality of the village school-teachers (who work in wooden-shuttered schoolhouses, with neither mosquito nets on the windows, nor electricity).

(5) The ideological and institutional weakness of Lao (as a language) is experienced by the foreign student as a kind of cultural strength: the language diversity (and internal inconsistency) of Lao entails that the people of Laos have a remarkable capacity to understand their own language when it is spoken very badly.  This is a considerable contrast even to central Thai: almost without exception, the Lao are accustomed to listening across considerable gaps of dialect, and understanding their own language as adapted by native speakers of a remarkable variety of first languages; thus, they are remarkably receptive to all the errors a student will make, and a relatively large portion of them are keen observers of fine distinctions that exist within the language family.

In sitting with a crowd of Isan and Thai speakers, I once complained that a particularly useful verb was understood in Northern Isan, but regarded with complete incomprehension when I got as far south as Lopburi.  A man younger than myself who had been working as a traveling salesman for some years then nodded appreciatively, and then listed off (province by province) exactly where the word was in common use, and where it was not known.  He regarded his own level of knowledge as nothing more than cocktail chatter, but he had a sensitivity for differences of dialect in the region that many a career linguist would envy.  I remember another young man (who was a somewhat lackadaisical law student at the time) who liked the sound of my Lao sobriquet, and then proceeded to demonstrate the small differences in the pronunciation of the name that I would encounter in each of the provinces of Laos (followed, somewhat less confidently, by an attempt at mimicking the non-Lao accents of the Hmong, Akha, and so on).  Although comparisons are odious, I never encountered anyone who had such a familiarity with the differences that exist within dialects of German when I was in Germany (nor of English in England, etc.), and I think that very few cultures have this level of linguistic self-awareness.

In the case of Lao, however, this awareness (in the current generation) has arisen in a post-war context of dislocation (including internal and external migration), generalized illiteracy and aliteracy.  That situation is neither ancient in origin nor mysterious in nature, and, on the contrary, it is a direct contrast to the local literary culture that existed only a few generations ago (a past culture that is evident if only in the corpus of Lao manuscripts aforementioned, writ in an array of dialects, now the domain of a very small number curators, with the last generation of scribes already deceased, and the continuum transmission already broken; this was once the popular literature, drama and entertainment of an array of small principalities, that were both producers and consumers of such manuscripts).  It also deserves to be said that this intense awareness of minor differences in spoken language correlates to shifting standards of snobbery, racism and exclusion, that shift from one context to another; in general, people are constantly judging one-another (and are aware that they are being judged themselves) by a thousand shibboleths.  Even as an unassimilated foreigner, I experienced the greatest diversity of responses imaginable both in speaking Lao as well as I could, and from speaking Thai with a heavy Lao accent, when in Thailand.  Some of the most negative responses were from Thai citizens who were themselves ethnically Lao, but who considered it politically offensive that I would speak Lao in Thailand; evidently, these were the ones who had accepted the attitudes of their own schoolmasters, while others whom I met had rejected the same sanction, and were instead elated to meet a foreigner who had chosen to learn the local language (rather than the official language of the state).

(6) The reformed orthography of Lao is described as "phonetic" (as standardized by the Communist government, with only minor changes in contrast to the former French empire standard, the latter in turn being a relatively minor set of changes when contrasted to "Tai Noi" longhand of the same era) and it is much more phonetically lucid than the writing systems of Thai or Cambodian; however, it reflects a kind of phonetic ideal that may very indirectly correspond to how the language is spoken wherever you happen to stand.  The sounds of the consonants can be considerably different from whatever the standardized textbooks and tables may say (in a way that is obvious to outsiders), and the vowel sounds can be different in a manner that is more subtle (sometimes invisible to outsiders) but that locals care about intensely (the elocution of vowel sounds is tremendously important, and the distinctions between many of these vowels is alien to European languages).

However, the greatest gap between pedagogy and praxis is in tonality.  Phinnarat Akharawatthanakun wrote a number of studies on tonality, contrasting the systems (recorded and tested empirically) from village to village (I am thinking of a paper presented at the 2005 FICLS, but I assume that the same material has been more formally published elsewhere by now).*⁴  This is a study that attempts to quantify (and display in a dizzying series of graphs) the differences between the tones as spoken in "around 65 varieties" of Lao dialect (including Isan and other borderland areas of Thailand).

In this context, I would not draw attention to the specific conclusions of that paper, but to the general conclusion that a student must draw from it: if you go to 27 different villages, you can encounter 27 different tone "systems", as the researchers in this project did (and the total could be 65 or more… depending on how precisely you measure the differences between dialects).  Every textbook will attempt to convince you of a single system of tones for Lao, but, with time, you will either need to subscribe to a philosophy that tonality is unsystematic, or else that the system is so intensely linked to individual villages that generalizations (about a single system) are misleading or useless.

I recall meeting one American graduate student who had learned Thai in a classroom setting, and who strictly imitated an artificial system of tonality that managed to be comprehensible while sounding nothing like Thai.  When she started learning Lao (in Laos) her teachers seemed to lack words to express what was wrong with her use of the language; she was told to "smooth over" her tones, and to stop pronouncing a different tone with each word.  My own remark on this was that she had ended up with something like "newsreader Thai", akin to the unnatural pronunciation of French radio announcers (especially when they read out the time or a formal political bulletin in French, they use a "dialect" that exists nowhere except in French broadcasting).

At the opposite extreme, it is very common to meet westerners who have learned Lao tonality through direct imitation and who do speak the language "flawlessly", even if their pronunciation is an unsystematic hybrid of the accents of their informants (or their adoptive family as the case may be).  I remember a waitress who spoke briefly with a white man as a customer, and then could identify the white man's wife's village of origin (although she was not present at the restaurant), because of this peculiar imprint of tonality; he had been (passively or actively) taking on some of the cultural cues of his wife's village-specific linguistic identity.

(7) This essay (rightly called a "fascicle", as it is a bundle of anecdotes) should answer last what many people would demand first: why learn Lao?  In these reflections on the politics of the language, some will find strong reasons to study Lao and some will find strong reasons to look elsewhere for a mountain to climb.

The context for learning Lao has changed remarkably in the space of a few years, and in the next few years it will change again.  Progress is an ideology; change is an objective fact; I don't believe in progress, but change is inevitable, especially where people lack the strength to resist it.

Everything I've written above seems to be from a very distant past, as I already know how dramatically the landscape of the country has changed: mountain roads that were formerly impassible have now been paved, and the forests laid flat.  The last of the wild elephant herds have been driven to extinction, and the myriad cultures that depended on the forests have been replaced by mass monocrop agriculture, with both centrifugal and centrifocal effects for the population (pushed off of the land in one place, gathered together in another, etc.).

When I was last in Laos, there was already a shortage of able-bodied labor for the rubber-tapping industry (with the first-planted trees gradually reaching their maturity for tapping, and a delay of many years before the bulk of the crop would require such labor) and it was widely supposed that they would be dependent upon Burmese refugees to provide the labor in future, as even the poorest of the Lao could not be compelled to do the work for the wages offered.  I had myself lived in villages where the locals told me, bluntly, that the entire population of the district had been (re-)constituted from migrants crossing over the border (from Burma) within a single generation (following after the long-term depopulation of the area that took place in the American wars).  At that time, it seemed that the slow-motion civil war in Burma would never end, and so Laos would be able to draw on this demographic dividend indefinitely.  Only now (in 2012) it seems as if that, too, might change.  Laos continues to be both a source of migrants and a destination for migrants; it both generates refugees and absorbs them from neighboring countries; in a value-neutral sense, the situation is "dynamic", although I think that all witnesses to the change are leery of the extent to which this dynamism is both destructive and self-destructive.

Various strands of Lao propaganda have been mentioned in passing in my remarks above, but I feel that I should add the simple note that much of this propaganda was (for a period of about 15 years) really very effective, both inside Laos, and in its international relations.  The Lao government said they were making a transition to parliamentary democracy and, to a large extent, even the most cynical of commentators and donor-agencies believed that this was underway.  Whenever the government spoke of saving the forests, or saving the elephants, a great many people were convinced of this, not least of all because of the long list of international agencies aiding and abetting the effort (whose idiom and imprimatur the Lao government borrowed from freely).  When the Lao government said it was going to conserve the marsh just north of the capital city, it seems that everyone believed it up until the very day that demolition was underway; when they said that they would pave over it and conserve it simultaneously, there were still a few who managed to agree with them.

For myself, the change of the symbol on the 1000 kip bill really did mean something, even if we regard it now as an act of propaganda: it was a tangible reassurance that I wasn't living in a country that would stack up Buddhist manuscripts and burn them, and that I wasn't living in a country that would smash the stone inscriptions and try to destroy its feudal past in the name of Communism.  As overtly paradoxical as it may be (in contrast to the history of Maoism to the north, or the Khmer Rouge to the south) Laos had invented a path of state patronage for Buddhism, while remaining a one party state of the "free-market Communist" variety.

I can't say that I was a victim of that propaganda, but I can say that it affected my own decision to learn Lao (and to devote years of my life to Laos, although the number of years was cut short by factors I had no control over); although I come from a political science background, and I was aware of the propaganda as a subject of study unto itself from the outset, nevertheless, it affected me both in ways that were shallow and in ways that were profound.

I recall asking a colleague who had switched from being a Cambodian specialist to working only on Laos why he had made that decision (as I was tempted to do the opposite myself).  After some sighing and a moment of reflection, he said that his main reason was the discrepancy between the two languages.  After years of speaking Cambodian, he told me, he felt that there was "nothing refined" about the language.  To me, this was a remarkable answer because, at that time, my own work on all of the languages of the area dominated by their written form, and especially the record of stone inscriptions, and other links to the ancient past; it seemed to me much easier to imagine someone complaining that Lao lacked the "refinement" of written Cambodian (but, as I say, this was not based on conversational experience in either language at the time).

The motivation and the reward for me (in learning Lao) had to do with its tenuous connection to Pali; the viability of my continuing to live in the country relied on the politically-tenuous connection between the Lao government and Theravāda Buddhism.  In studying the language, from day to day, I would stumble upon fragments of various ancient words, often cobbled together with vernacular ones, sometimes retaining their original meaning, and sometimes wildly different from it.  (See the notes to the second illustration, above, with the jocular title about the practical use of knowing Pali in daily life; various simple examples are also found on my old website, bhāsā → pāsā (ພາສາ), padesa → ƀatet (ປະເທດ), etc. etc.)  I realized fully at the time how unusual this was: I never learned the vocabulary of bars and nightclubs that tourists normally do, but my days were brightened up with the strange etymologies that are everywhere ignored, by native speakers and outsiders alike.

The idea of Laos in the 21st century, as the propaganda was presented to me, was of a country that had decided to transition from Marxist-Leninism to Buddhism, and to transition from a revolutionary dictatorship to some kind of elected government, with some scope for public dissent.  I think that a more productive way to think of the underlying reality (in that era) is that no such decision was ever made: instead, there was a continuity, inasmuch as Laos has tried to generate the propaganda messages that its donors have demanded of it, in one epoch after another.  When the donors demanded to hear about ecology, they set their minds to this message just the same as they had done with any other message before, from Soviet-style potemkin villages, to killing all the ducks in a given province to impress the U.N. agencies with their zeal to prevent the H5N1 virus.  In this sense, deforestation is compatible with ecology, and one-party totalitarianism is compatible with democracy: they are different acts set forth on the same stage, in a theatre that all the players must believe in (almost as if it were real), until the curtain falls.


¹ N.J. Enfield.  2008.  "Lao Linguistics in the 20th Century and Since."  In Y. Goudineau, & M. Lorrillard (Eds.), Recherches nouvelles sur le Laos (pp. 435-452). Paris: EFEO.
² Grant Evans.  1997-8 Vientiane Social Survey Project.  Lao Ministry of Information and Culture: Institute for Cultural Research.  (This is a government publication, but I read the "draft" version, informally published by Evans prior to editing (if any) by the government and/or donor agencies.)
³ This is quoted from an informal conference paper on the "iconography" of Lao banknotes written by Oliver Tappe, titled, "A New Banknote in the People’s Republic – The Iconography of the Kip as a Representation of Ideological Transformations in Laos (1957-2006)."  I do not know if it was ever formally published.  Tappe does not mention Edmund Leach, but does draw attention to the three strata of ethnicity
⁴ Phinnarat Akharawatthanakun, 2005, "Tones in Proto-Lao, Modern Lao, and Future Lao", presented at the First International Conference on Lao Studies, May 20-22, 2005. Northern Illinois University. DeKalb: USA.  (Distributed digitally after the conference.)