Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 March 2021
This chapter gives an introductory overview of the patterns of reference and nominal syntax in the languages of mainland Southeast Asia. The chapter begins with the principles by which head nouns are modified, for example by adjectives or relative clauses, or in possessive constructions. Many languages of the area have systems of nominal classification, especially numeral classifiers and class terms. Personal pronoun systems range from extremely simple, such as in certain varieties of Chinese, to extremely complex, such as in the systems of Thai, Burmese, or Cambodian, whose systems of pronouns show elaborate distinctions in social-hierarchical structure and politeness. Demonstrative systems of the area span the range of complexity, ranging from two-term systems to systems with eight or more distinctions.