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Open Access Publications from the University of California

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.

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