Kanjana Hubik Thepboriruk

Research Interests

My research broadly examines the notion of 'Thainess' and how Thais define, understand, perform, regulate, and transmit 'Thainess' intergenerationally both in Thailand and in the Thai diaspora, in the past and in the present, including the role that the Thai language does and does not have in their lives. Linguistic projects focus on grammatical descriptions of diasporic, émigré, and heritage Thai language varieties with particular focus on (socio-)phonetics and speaker-identity construction. Historical projects focus on the construction of 'Thainess' during the first Phibunsongkhram regime (1938 – 1944), especially the afterlife of gendered state-building policies and their impact on women.

I've always loved languages and teaching. I remember the exact moment I became a linguist: during my Spanish class in sixth grade with Señora Pasch. I arrived in Wisconsin a bit before fifth grade with no English, saved for a handful of words and phrases I'd memorized to prepare for the journey from Bangkok, Thailand. There I was, just a year later, trying to make sense of the English that was being used to teach me about Spanish tenses, when I had an epiphany! Languages were just the tools we use to express our ideas, thoughts, and feelings and they are all trying to do the same thing, but simply have different ways of doing it.

Along the way to becoming a linguist, I discovered History and found that some of my own knowledge gaps could only be filled through historical inquiry, especially the things I wanted to know about Thai people and Thailand, what some people have pejoratively labeled as 'me-search'. I delved into learning more about Thai history and eventually completed my undergraduate studies in Linguistics and Southeast Asian Studies. In trying to fill knowledge gaps I found in Thai Studies, I became one of the first few scholars to publish in the field of Thai American Studies and Thai Diaspora Studies.

Research Specializations

  • Phonetics and Sociophonetics
  • Phonology
  • Thai History (post-1932)
  • Asian American Studies

Other Interests

As for teaching, I always knew I wanted to teach. It was just a matter of figuring out what I wanted to teach. All roads I took, whether it was when I worked for a corporate retail company or at the family Thai restaurant or at my own coffee shop, led to me teaching and helping others learn. I entered university as a secondary education major with the goal of becoming a high school Spanish teacher but soon realized that I wanted to teach adults and embarked on my doctoral studies after graduation. My teaching style is collaborative and I aim to provide whole-person education in my classrooms.

Other things I also love are making lists, color-coding, cooking and feeding people, Star Trek, traveling, dancing, sleeping, animals, public transit, cities and beaches.

Projects and Publications

Dear Thai Sisters

Examines the impact and afterlife of gendered state-building policies have on women during the first Phibunsongkhram regime (1938 – 1944)

Thai in Diaspora

Records and describes diasporic, émigré, and heritage Thai language varieties and their differences and similarities to varieties of Standard Thai spoken in Thailand.

Thais in Illinois Oral History Project

Collects oral interviews from Thais in Illinois about their immigration history and the founding of various Thai institutions such as temples, churches, and organizations. To volunteer as a participant, please contact Dr. Kanjana at kanjana@niu.edu.

Translations and Translation Studies

  • Thepboriruk, Kanjana H., translator. Forthcoming. "Men of the Inner Court during Bangkok's 6th" By Chanan Yodhong. 2013.
  • Thepboriruk, Kanjana H. In Progress. "Between the Lines: Identity and Belonging in the Thai translation of Letter of Black Lives."
  • Thepboriruk, Kanjana. 2015. "Translation counts: comparative analysis of Thai texts for the 2010 Census." In Jonathan H. X. Lee, ed. Southeast Asian Diaspora in the United States: Memories & Visions, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. London and New York: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Pp. 46-71.

General Linguistics

  • Thepboriruk, Kanjana. 2018. "The Sounds of Language." In Kamil Ud Deen, ed. Linguistics 102: Introduction to the Study of Language, 3rd edition, pp. 10 – 23. Department of Linguistics, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.


  • Ph.D., University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (Linguistics, 2015)
  • M.A., University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (Linguistics, 2010)
  • B.A., University of Wisconsin – Madison (Linguistics and Southeast Asian Studies, 2004)

Courses Taught

  • FLTH 103/104 – Beginning Thai
  • FLTH 203/204 – Intermediate Thai
  • FLTH 400/500 – Special Topics in Thai (Advanced Thai)



National Organizations


Kanjana Hubik Thepboriruk
Associate Professor of Thai Language and Thai Linguistics
Research Affiliate, Center for Southeast Asian Studies
Research Affiliate, Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Language and Literacy
Coordinator, Thais in Illinois Oral History Project
Watson Hall 116

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