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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. Since 2020 it includes the series Languages and Peoples of the Eastern Himalayan Region as the second issue of every volume.

Himalayan Linguistics

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Prosodic and Grammatical Domains in Limbu

This paper shows that patterns of application for several phonological processes and constraints in Limbu (Kiranti, Tibeto-Burman) reveals the relevance of hierarchical prosodic domains, including the syllable, foot, phonological word, and phonological phrase. In particular, an appeal to the phonological word uniformly accounts for the distribution of otherwise idiosyncratic alternations between the lateral approximant /l/ and the trill /r/. A prosodic domains account also reveals a mis-match between nominal compounds and verbal bipartite stems, with compounds consistently parsed as a single phonological word, and bipartite stems as hybrid in their prosodic organization. Limbu is of particular interest from a theoretical perspective, as the different morphological information referenced by the multiple phonological words in Limbu stands as a challenge to specific assumptions within the Prosodic Hierarchy Hypothesis (e.g. “Clustering” and “Proper Bracketing”) . Typologically (within the Tibeto-Burman family), the prosodic alignments evidenced in Limbu are in some ways similar to those proposed for other related languages (e.g. the exclusion of prefixes from most prosodic domains), but also different in other ways (e.g. the organization of compounds).