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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.

Himalayan Linguistics

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A first field report on Nachiring (Kiranti)

The Nachiring language belongs to the Kiranti branch of the Trans-Himalayan language family (a.k.a Tibeto-Burman or Sino-Tibetan) and is spoken in the Himalayan foothills of eastern Nepal. Within the Kiranti branch, Nachiring has been classified as belonging to the Khambu unit of the Central Kiranti subgroup, but no linguistic fieldwork has been undertaken so far and the language remains undocumented and undescribed. The present paper constitutes a first sociolingusitic survey of the Nachiring language, based on an initial field trip, and presents updates on the number of speakers, location, language usage and attitude, as well as a first linguistic inspection of the relationship between Nachiring and the closely related Kulung language. Nachiring is a highly endangered language and thus in severe need of linguistic documentation.

The historical phonology of Monsang (Northwestern South-Central/“Kuki-Chin”): A case of reduction in phonological complexity

There have been recent advances in the phonological reconstruction of the South-Central (“Kuki-Chin”) branch of Trans-Himalayan (Tibeto-Burman), in particular by VanBik (2009). However, the Northwestern (“Old Kuki”) subgroup, generally considered to be conservative, is not represented in this work as reliable data have not been available. The present study provides a comprehensive documentation of the historical phonology of one Northwestern language, Monsang. The unexpected finding is that Monsang cannot be considered conservative in its phonological development. A large number of sound changes have occurred across all phonological domains. The majority of sound changes are mergers, and with small exceptions, no unusual sound changes are found. As a result, the diachronic development of Monsang can be considered a case of reduction in phonological complexity.

Algorithmic description of the decomposition and checking of a Classical Tibetan syllable

This document presents our research on the the correct formation of a Classical Tibetan syllable. It was triggered by attempts at defining the boundaries of well-formed syllables in Classical Tibetan for spell checking purposes. Formalizing the formation of the syllable led us to inspect the small differences among grammar books, both in Western and Tibetan language. We then checked these differences against the Tibetan dictionaries we consider reliable, and also against the Kangyur. Our inquiry finally led us to study the way to decompose a syllable, discussing the ambiguous cases, as well as the formation of the Dzongkha syllable.


Don’t believe in a paradigm that you haven’t manipulated yourself! – Evidentiality, speaker attitude, and admirativity in Ladakhi

A speaker may conceptualise and represent a situation from three different ‘perspectives’: epistemic, evidential, and attitudinal. Languages differ in which of these con­cepts they profile and how a grammaticalised category may be extended to the other two. The grammatical systems of lesser-known languages tend to be misrepresented in the typological literature. Modern Tibetic languages including the Ladakhi dialects are said to have grammaticalised evidentiality. However, their ‘evidential’ systems differ from the typologically more common systems, in that speaker attitude is co-grammaticalised and knowledge based on perception shares properties with knowledge based on inferences. The starting point for the development of this, as it seems, typologically rather uncommon ‘evidential system’ was a lexical marker for non-commitment (or admirativity): the auxiliary ḥdug.

Book Review: Signing and Belonging in Nepal by Erika Hoffmann-Dilloway

Signing and Belonging in Nepal is an accessible, quick-reading 120 pages on how the Deaf signing community of Nepal has strategically reshaped their ethnolinguistic identity to gain legitimacy in a society that subordinates them. Erika Hoffmann-Dilloway describes a predominantly Hindu society largely influenced by the belief that “an inability to hear was the result of bad karma, or misdeeds in a previous life” (p. 3) and that this bad karma “could be transmitted to others through contact” (p. 4). Fearing negative karmic effects on their own lives, the greater Nepali community ostracized the deaf. Hoffmann-Dilloway explores how the Nepali signing community legitimizes themselves as an ethnolinguistic community within this dominant Hindu framework, as equally deserving of representation.