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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.

Languages and Peoples of the Eastern Himalayan Region

Languages and Peoples of the Eastern Himalayan Region

Morphophonemic variation in the nominal morphology of Assamese

This paper seeks to analyse and describe the nature of morphophonemic variation in the nominal morphology of Assamese, an Indo-Aryan language spoken in Assam. Previous discussions of morphophonemic variation in the language have focused on the phonological aspects of such variation (Goswami and Tamuli, 2003: 410-13). However, the present study seeks to examine the nature and range of phonological variations within morphemes triggered by nominal morphological processes such as (a) deictic inflections for relational nouns, (b) case inflections for nouns and pronouns and (c) nominal word-formation via derivation and compounding.

Identifying the phonological and morphological factors behind the morphophonemic variation in nominal morphology will serve to uncover the patterned nature of the underlying regularities of a major area of Assamese grammar. Moreover, in seeking to align the morphophonemic variations with specific nominal morphological processes rather than treating them in intrinsic phonological terms, this study proposes to highlight the interdependent functioning of the levels of analysis. Such functioning is evident in instances of phonological variations within morphemes that serve to mark different grammatical functions in the language. In addition to such descriptive considerations, the range of variations and their associated morphological processes can also shed light on specific aspects of diachronic change when they are cross-linguistically compared with cognate languages.

The study will be based mainly on corpus data using the empirical methodology of corpus linguistics. Supplementary introspective data will also be used where necessary.

Causatives in Maring

Causatives are valence increasing operation where another core argument, a causal agent (causer), is added for expressing a semantic or logical effect of causation on the non-causative verb. Causative construction comprises of the causer –the agent of the predicate of cause, and the causee – the agent of the caused event (Payne 1997: 176). This paper described the formation of causatives in Maring, a lesser-known Tibeto-Burman language spoken in southeaster part of Manipur, India. Maring has three causatives, təu-, -kjər and pi-. While təu- is used for direct causation and for deriving causatives from adjectives, kjər- is used for indirect causation. On the other hand, pi- is a benefactive marker that also gives causative interpretation. This paper will discuss and analyse the three causatives found in Maring – their origin, characteristics and productivity etc

Tone Sandhi in Uipo

Uipo, also called Khoibu, is an underdescribed Tibeto-Burman language spoken by around 1800 people in the Chandel district of Manipur. Uipo has four lexical tones: a high falling tone, a low level tone, a low falling tone and a high level tone. These are called Tone 1, Tone 2, Tone 3 and Tone 4 respectively. When tones are combined within one word, there are two sandhi rules that explain how the tones change. This article will look at the different context where tone sandhi occurs, focusing on compounds, possessive constructions, and nominal attribution. For instance, a noun that start with a Tone 1 or a Tone 2 syllable will get a Tone 4 when following a Tone 2 possessive prefix. There are examples of minimal pairs that become homonymic in certain morphological contexts, and these are used to illustrate that the tonal category of a given words has really changed. Interestingly, what otherwise seem like phonological rules have some specific lexical exceptions. For instance, the word toŋ1kan2 does not change its tone in contexts where it is expected. The sandhi rules are argued to be  evidence that Uipo has a four-tone system, as opposed to what has been proposed by some previous accounts of the language which have described it as having only three.

Auxiliary Verbs of Nocte, Khappa, Ollo and Tutsa

The unit of study is Tirap district which lies in the south-eastern part of Arunachal Pradesh; and the languages or varieties are Nocte, Khappa, Ollo and Tutsa.

Presently, Tirap is mainly inhabited by Nocte; few villages in the district show occupancy by Nocte-Ollo and Nocte-Khappa. Noctes form the bulk of population of Tirap. This study probes the so-called sub-tribes of Nocte – Ollo and Khappa. Khappa is regarded as a literary medium of Nocte; hence the variety is used in composing songs and poetry. Ollo seeks to be an independent tribe in near future. Tutsa was regarded as a sub-tribe of Nocte, until 1991 the former got registered as an independent tribe.

The study is an attempt to lay out grammatical features based on the usage of auxiliary verbs and Be Verbs found in these languages/ varieties – Nocte, Khappa, Ollo and Tutsa; and trace how far the morphology of these languages bears the same source or show resemblances. The features taken into account here are as follows:

The study illustrates the various auxiliary verbs featuring in these languages like toŋ, nyi, daŋ jaŋ, diaŋ. It brings into focus that the existential verbs and possessive verbs are derived from posture verb toŋ ‘sit’ and verb nyi/daŋ ‘live/stay’ and je ‘exist’. These verbs provide an understanding not only of the cognates which is interestingly shared among the four; but also, the usages of content and function words shared by the same.

In addition, the study describes the Be verb hon in Ollo and Tutsa which perform inchoative functions.

The description adds not only to the understanding of rich varieties of auxiliary verbs used in these languages.; but also, source of lexical/grammatical cognates shared by these languages despite retaining their uniqueness.

Tangsa-Nocte as a Continuum: A diagnostic feature list for classification of varieties

Numerous languages of North East India are classified according to extralinguistic factors such as district and state borders or superficial similarities in culture. This has resulted in highly diverse language varieties — often with little or no mutual intelligibility — falling under a single label despite these considerable linguistic and cultural differences. Likewise, varieties which are closely related or lacking any meaningful differences may be classified as distinct entities, such as with the Phong variety which is classified as either Tangsa or as Nocte depending on the district in which the speaker resides.

Based on an analysis of sound correspondences and lexical variation between varieties, this paper argues the case for treatment of Tangsa-Nocte not as two closely related branches within the Sal languages, as earlier classifications may suggest, but rather as a single dialect continuum.