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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Himalayan Linguistics is a free peer-reviewed web journal and archive devoted to the study of the languages of the Himalayas. It includes the series Languages and Peoples of the Eastern Himalayan Region, which incorporates the North East Indian Linguistics (NEIL) volumes.

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Stress patterns and acoustic correlates of stress in Balti Tibetan

In Balti Tibetan, spoken in Baltistan, northern Pakistan, disyllabic non-verbs (nouns, adjectives, and numerals) are stressed on the second syllable (S2). Fundamental frequency is a robust correlate of this S2 stress pattern; vowel duration is a weak and inconsistent cue for stress, while intensity does not play a role. Verbs, in contrast, are stressed on the first syllable (S1); F0, intensity, and vowel duration all contribute to conveying syllable prominence. These findings differ from previous descriptions of Balti in distinguishing stress patterns by lexical category. Further, this is the first work to provide an acoustic characterization of the correlates of stress in Tibetan. As one of the most phonologically conservative varieties of the language, Balti can be considered to preserve the prosodic and acoustic characteristics of Proto-Tibetan. This study thus offers crucial information towards reconstructions of Proto-Tibetan and Proto-Tibeto-Burman, and towards refining hypotheses about Tibetan tonogenesis.

Nepali attention marker ni

This article is the first in-depth study of the Nepali discourse particle ni. The first part summarizes how ni has been treated in previous works on Nepali and shows how Östman’s (1981) analysis of the often-used English translation equivalent of ni, ‘you know’, gives a hint about the semantics of ni. Then, deriving data mainly from Narayan Wagle’s novel Palpasa café, which includes colloquial dialogues, but also from other sources, the paper illustrates the declarative, interrogative and imperative uses of ni. The common denominator between the various uses of ni is shown to be that the speaker brings something to the forefront of the addressee’s attention. The last section compares the concept of attention to the related concepts contrastive focus and mirative.

A functional reconstruction of the Proto-Tibetan verbal system

Based on the divergent functions attested in Purik for all four stems of the maximally complex transitive Written Tibetan (WT) verb paradigms, we are able to reconstruct a Proto-Tibetan (PT)verb system in which labial-prefixed voiceless onsets triggered a focus on the initial phase of an event (i.e., its instigation), nasal-prefixed voiced  onsets  on  its final phase  (i.e., its  result), and unprefixed  and  eventually aspirated voiceless onsets on the event as such (or the middle phase of the event). The reconstruction of this threefold phasal distinction for PT allows us to recognize the original functions of a number of other features of Tibetan verbal morphology, to wit, the “stative” -s suffix, the nominalizing -d suffix, the causative s- prefix and its “result-causative” form z-, and the “deictic” -o- replacing the stem vowel -a-. Furthermore, the most plausible and economic account for how all these features evolved in different varieties of Tibetan involves the assumption that subordinator-less concatenations were common in PT when two verbs described different facets of one and the same event.