Segmental and prosodic phonology and morphophonology in Tsum, a language of Nepal.




Liu, Naijing

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This thesis investigates the sound system of the underdocumented Tibeto-Burman language Tsum and ways the phonology of Tsum interacts with the linguistic domains of morphonology, syntax, and pragmatics. It showcases how grammatical and pragmatic information in Tsum are expressed through the usage of a complex sound system, based on extensive data collected during a fieldtrip in Tsum Valley and Kathmandu, Nepal, and data-checking via Zoom. This thesis first provides a comprehensive analysis of the segmental and tonal phonology of Tsum. Tsum is a typologically unique and phonologically complex language. It has seven vowels and thirty-six consonants. Tsum is a word tone language with five contrastive tones. The sound system of Tsum displays many different features although sharing many similarities with other Kyirong-Kagate languages due to the language contact. The phonology-morphology interaction is demonstrated through the investigation of phonological processes that occur with nominal morphology in Tsum. The thesis discovers that consonants and syllables can be elided during case marker attachment. Vowels undergo more complicated phonological processes, including hiatus resolution, long vowel formation, nasalization with the genitive/ergative/instrumental case marker, and vowel co-articulation with the diminutive suffix. The tonal processes associated with nominal morphology show discrepancy because some nominal markers are tonal but others are not. The interaction of phonology with syntax and semantics is illustrated with reference to two phenomena. First, vowel alternations and tonal changes in the specification of tense and aspectual meanings demonstrate that vowels and tone work independently in expressing syntactic functions. Second, a detailed examination of segmental and tonal representations and semantic meanings of consonant voicing alternations in verb pairs shows a middle-like third form characterised by a voiceless unaspirated onset and a /LH/ tone. This form suggests verb triplets rather than pairs in Tsum, unlike patterns described for related Tibeto-Burman languages. Prosodic phonology, an understudied topic among Tibeto-Burman languages, is also examined in this thesis. In the study of prosodic phonology in Tsum, examination of interrogative vs. declarative utterances reveals that the surface stem tone in the verbal complex can change depending on the intonation pattern. By analysing the Tsum language, this thesis aims to understand how to transmit grammatical and pragmatic information with a system of sounds from both segmental and tonal perspectives. Phonology, tone, and prosody bear a high functional load of coding grammatical functions and pragmatic meaning in Tsum, besides morpho-syntactic methods. It is also the case in Tsum that this information can only be revealed by examining phonology, tone, and prosody.






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