On Oct. 24-26, 2019, the 5th Hmong Studies Consortium International Conference was held at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. The theme was “Critical Hmong Studies: Change, Continuity, Progress.”
Scholars from different fields and expertise came together to present on diverse and international topics with perspectives from linguistics, sociology, literary arts, performance arts, and more.
Among those scholars were two Fresno State undergraduate students, Choua Yang and Yunang Thao. With the support of their professor, Dr. Chô Ly, they presented “A Study of a New Part of Speech: The Rhythmers.”
The ‘rhythmer,’ coined by Dr. Ly, refers to a new category of words in Hmong language that hasn’t been mentioned by previous research. Seen as intrinsically meaningless, it has been largely ignored until Yang, Thao, and Dr. Ly studied the meaning of some rhythmers.
The results showed that even when they do not have an intrinsic meaning–such as only adding rhythm to the sentence–they do contribute to the meaning of the sentence and are not randomly inserted into phrases but rather at the beginning or end. This discovery categorized rhythmers as a new part of speech.
Yang recounted being very nervous at the beginning of their breakout session, but it became more natural as they spoke and as the audience engaged with questions, adding to a strong discussion.
“Toward the end, an audience member commented that the topic of rhythmers has the potential of becoming a part of the curriculum in the Hmong courses in Minnesota. This encouraged us to write an article,” said Yang, who also acknowledged that Dr. Ly helped review it before it was sent out for consideration.
Now, the article titled “Hidden Melodies of the Hmong Language: The Rhythmers” will be published in the conference proceedings, which will be the first time for the students.
Yang added, “It’s very exciting, especially knowing the potential of this article!”