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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Apatani phonology and lexicon, with a special focus on tone

  • Author(s): Post, Mark W;
  • Kanno, Tage
  • et al.

Despite being one of the most extensively researched of Eastern Himalayan languages, the basic morphological and phonological-prosodic properties of Apatani (Tibeto-Burman > Tani > Western) have not yet been adequately described. This article attempts such a description, focusing especially on interactions between segmental-syllabic phonology and tone in Apatani. We highlight three features in particular – vowel length, nasality and a glottal stop – which contribute to contrastively-weighted syllables in Apatani, which are consistently under-represented in previous descriptions of Apatani, and in absence of which tone in Apatani cannot be effectively analysed. We conclude that Apatani has two “underlying”, lexically-specified tone categories H and L, whose interaction with word structure and syllable weight produce a maximum of three “surface” pitch contours – level, falling and rising – on disyllabic phonological words. Two appendices provide a set of diagnostic procedures for the discovery and description of Apatani tone categories, as well as an Apatani lexicon of approximately one thousand entries.

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