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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

Issue cover
Cover Caption: Malimasa, Yunnan, China.


Possessive indexes in Assamese

This paper deals with a comprehensive description of a set of possessive indexes found in Assamese, a language spoken in the eastern part of India, by a majority of people living in the state of Assam. Genetically, this language belongs to the group of Indo-Aryan language family and shares a close affinity with Bengali and Oriya languages due to their common source of origin. The possessive indexes of the language are found to be suffixed to the possessed noun in possessive constructions (Possessive NPs)) in terms of the category of person. Cross-linguistically, it is not very uncommon to find this kind of markers in possessive NPs (Siewierska 2004). But what makes Assamese interesting in this respect is that the set of markers found in Assamese is not derived from pronominal forms as attested in many languages of the world. Furthermore, the existence of possessive markers is an unusual phenomenon in Assamese in that it is neither common in NIA languages nor in South Asian languages (Paudyal 2008). Apart from a few geographically distant languages of Indo-Aryan origin, these markers are not available in any other Indo-Aryan languages which are close to Assamese, either geographically or genetically. Thus, this paper focuses on four aspects:  a comprehensive description of the markers as stated above, a survey of the markers in other Indo-Aryan languages, the historical origin of the markers, and the origin of the system of marking.

Word formation in contemporary Liangmai: A morphological study

This paper attempts to discuss the different processes of word formation in contemporary Liangmai, a Tibeto-Burman (TB) language of the Kuki-Chin-Naga sub group (Bradley 1997). The language is spoken by around 50,000 speakers in the state of Manipur and Nagaland, in the northeastern part of India. This paper discusses a detailed description of the word formation processes that are relevant in Liangmai, namely affixation, compounding and reduplication. Like the other TB languages of the region, Liangmai is an agglutinative language in which almost all the syllable boundary corresponds to morpheme boundary. Most of the Liangmai words are monosyllabic. In the case of disyllabic/polysyllabic words, various morphemes which composed the word are easily segmentable.

Extended ergativity in Bumthang

This paper addresses ergativity in Bumthang. In 2016, Donohue & Donohue reported on the variable use of the ergative case marker in Bumthang transitive clauses. They identified a number of largely pragmatic, semantic, and informational structural contexts that license the use of the ergative case on the subjects. Given the nature of the factors involved we examined similar conditions for arguments of monovalent verbs, not a typical context for receiving ergative case if structural conditions were uniquely determining case, but which would likely also be sensitive to these same factors. We find that there are some contexts in which the sole argument of an monovalent verb can bear ergative case, drawing on some of the same features, but not identical to those relevant for transitive verbs. In particular, the notion of agentivity is of paramount importance for licensing ergative case arguments of monovalent verbs, and we discuss the set of factors that need to coincide for this to happen.

Tibetan dining etiquette: A sociolinguistic analysis of a normative discourse text in Stau

The primary objective of this article is to provide a transcription, glossing, and translation of a recent oral presentation called རྟའུ་ཐུབ་བསྟན་ཉི་མ་གི་ཟ་མ་ལུགས་སྐོར་ཞིབ་ཆ་དེ་དག་སྣང་བྱེད་ (henceforth ZML), which can be translated as “Stau's Detailed Commentary on Dining Etiquette," made over social media in the Stau language. ZML provides an example of the role of social media in language use among a language with relatively few speakers in the Sichuan Ethnic Corridor of China and provides data for studying the influence of Tibetic languages on Stau from the standpoint of loanwords. ZML is also a source of anthropological and sociolinguistic data; giving insight into a prescriptive approach to behavior, normative discourse, and identity formation. In addition, a preliminary representation of Stau using the Tibetan (Sambhota) script is given in this paper.