From: Anish Koshy <elanishgmail.com>
Subject: Linguistics of the Himalayas and Beyond
E-mail this message to a friend
Discuss this message
Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/18/18-3792.html
EDITORS: Bielmeier, Roland; Haller, Felix
TITLE: Linguistics of the Himalayas and Beyond
SERIES: Trends in Linguistics, Studies and Monographs 196
PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter
Anish Koshy, Centre for Applied Linguistics and Translation Studies, University
of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, INDIA
This book is a collection of 21 papers, presented at the 8th Himalayan Languages
Symposium in 2002 in Switzerland. The Himalayan languages include mainly
languages from the Tibeto-Burman family, apart from a few Mon-Khmer languages in
India and Indo-Aryan languages in India and Nepal. This volume is dedicated to
Tibeto-Burman languages and includes ten papers dedicated to major varieties of
Tibetan spoken in Tibet/China, Bhutan and Nepal. Of the other papers, three deal
with Western Himalayan languages of India (Kinnauri and Bunan), two papers deal
with the Tamangic languages of Nepal, a paper on two east Bodish languages
(Dzala and Dakpa), four papers on Kiranti languages of Nepal, and a paper on two
Tibeto-Burman languages (Rabha and Manipuri) from India.
Philip Denwood's ''The language history of Tibetan'' is an investigation on the
antiquity of Tibetan based on four different approaches to the Tibetan language
reconstruction: script-based, dialect-based, lexis-based and grammar-based.
While the script-based approach argues that the spellings of Written Tibetan
(WT) reflects the way Tibetan was spoken at the time it was written down
(largely based on two dictionaries – Jäschke (1881) and Das (1902)), in the
dialect based approach each dialect is internally reconstructed and compared to
reach the proto-Tibetan phonological formula where it is compared to WT. While
the lexis based approach envisages the differentiation of lexical items
depending on whether they belong to preclassical, classical or modern forms of
the language, the grammar based approach compares languages based on the
presence or absence of morpho-syntactic forms. The author also discusses other
factors that need to be kept in mind during reconstruction, such as
inter-dialect influences due to sustained contact, folk accounts of migration,
etc. He appreciates Jäschke's bird's eye view of various Tibetan dialects and at
the same time presents the complexity and diversity that one must account for
before one admits that the language has been preserved for us through the
The importance of this paper in the collection is its well-argued attempt to
rethink the dependency on language reconstruction based on script alone, as one
can never be sure if the script was meant to represent only one variety or if
the script represents the oldest form of the language.
Arguing for the advantages of syntagmatic analysis over phonemic analysis,
Richard K. Sprigg (''Tibetan orthography, the Balti dialect, and a contemporary
phonological theory'') feels that Thonmi Sambhota, traditionally believed to be
the one who established the Tibetan orthography, had anticipated Firth's theory,
proposed in the 1930s, of analyzing languages as polysystemic and not in terms
of single sets of phonemes. Sprigg discusses 8 of the 18 different systems that
Sambhota organized Tibetan orthography into. Balti (Khapalu sub-dialect),
according to Sprigg, is an antique survival, possibly the only surviving Tibetan
dialect to have pronunciations that correspond to spellings. Comparing classical
Tibetan with Balti, Sprigg notes that the classical variety has lost initial
clusters still retained in Balti and has compensated for the loss with the
development of phonemic tone. Sprigg concludes by highlighting that since in the
systemic understanding every single sound has its essence only in relation to
the other sounds in the system, it is more insightful in capturing partial
complementation (when some sounds are phonemic in certain environments and
allophonic in some others).
Sprigg's paper is a theoretical debate in that it attempts to show how Firth's
systemic theory scores better than other theories in the matter under
discussion. From a reader's perspective, since the paper is completely grounded
in a particular theoretical framework, at times it becomes difficult to
appreciate unless one is familiar with the technical jargon employed in the
theory. Interestingly, though the entire discussion is based on Firth's system,
none of his works are mentioned in the References at the end of the paper.
Questioning the traditional description of Ladakhi (the Indian neighbor of
Balti) as an ergative language Bettina Zeisler (''Sentence patterns and pattern
variation in Ladakhi: A field report'') feels that while there is a detailed
treatment of the function of case markers in Tibetan varieties in most grammars,
a systematic classification of sentence patterns is rarely found. Zeisler shows
that one can see Experiencer constructions with dative case that Ladakhi has
developed due to its contact with Indo-Iranian languages. The subject in Ladakhi
can be marked by ergative, absolutive or aesthetive. She also highlights some of
the syntactic restrictions that hold for the subject slot. The contrast between
Subject and Non-subject, not very evident in other Tibetan languages, is very
evident in Ladakhi. With the focus of the paper on sentence patterns in Ladakhi,
the paper includes a discussion on the main patterns which include types like
the 'take away' types, the 'get out, move away' types, etc, and the marginal
patterns which include the 'fill into with (-ctrl)' types, the 'fill into with
(+ctrl)' types, etc.
The importance of Zeisler's paper is in its attempt to question stated positions
on the system of case-marking in Tibetan with a wide-array of sentence patterns
and variation within them.
Continuing the discussion on case-marking in Tibetan is Ralf Vollmann's
''Tibetan grammar and the active/stative case-marking type'' where the author
suggests that the type of case-marking found in Tibetan (the language chosen
here is Lhasa Tibetan) is better described in terms of 'active/stative' than in
terms of 'ergative/transitive'. Furthering the argument the author shows how
Tibetan distinguishes various levels of agent-patient relationships thus
expressing varying degrees of transitivity by the presence or absence of agents
and by the choice of verb forms (discussed as 'responsibility hierarchy' by
Beyer (1992)). The author shows how the three core cases of ERGATIVE, ABSOLUTIVE
and EXPERIENCER in Tibetan is in accordance with the system found in languages
of the active/stative case type and discusses some of the other major
characteristics of this case type found in Tibetan as well. He also discusses
some of the other major characteristics of the Tibetan verb, the approach of
different scholars to the Tibetan verbal system, the traditional Tibetan view
propounded quite economically by Thonmi Sambhota and concludes with an
interesting sketch of a macro-areal characteristic of semantic-case marking
Vollman's paper is theoretically very sound and takes up a wide array of issues.
The only problem for the reader is that he/she is expected to have some
knowledge of the classical tradition in Tibetan for a fuller appreciation of the
Addressing the semantics, syntax and discourse functions of directionals based
on natural discourse data in Tokpe Gola, a Tibetan dialect spoken in
Northeastern Nepal, Nancy J. Caplow in ''Directionals in Tokpe Gola Tibetan
discourse'' points out that directional markers in Tokpe Gola are topographical
with mainly three roots meaning 'upgradient', 'downgradient' and 'on contour'
being employed. The topographical expressions used as directionals in the
language matches with the topography of the place as is the case in most
languages which employ such directionals. They are pre-verbal bound stems and
can separate the objects from the verbs and can also be separated from the verbs
by subordinate clauses. They are just deictic roots and do not belong to any
lexical category. These directionals combine with LOC/ABL/ALL case markers to
form complex forms and define complete trajectories of motion. Many archaic case
forms like the ABLATIVE [-le] are preserved in these complex directionals. The
anaphoric use of the directionals with the three case marking allomorphs of
[-la], [-ru] and [-na] is also very interesting. Different markers convey a
sense of permanence continuity, impermanence etc.
Caplow's paper is further evidence to the typological understanding of the
grounding of directionals in the topography of a place. The study is interesting
for the historical features it exposes, especially the fossilized use of some of
the case markers. While the use of directionals in a spatio-temporal framework
provided by the topography of the land has been a well-attested linguistic
phenomenon, some of the rare or unattested uses of case markings to convey the
sense of permanence or transience or the association between people and places
is indeed interesting, and further evidence to prove or disprove this theory
would be welcome.
With the basic argument that the distribution of connectives, place, person and
time deixis in verbal affixes parallel one another in encoding the distal time
of a legend narrative (offline, represented through 'then/there/they') and a
shift in point of view in direct speech (online, represented through
'here/now/you/me') in Dzongkha, a southern Tibetan speech variety spoken in
Bhutan and India, Stephen A. Watters' ''The nature of narrative text in Dzongkha:
Evidence from deixis, evidentiality, and mirativity'' shows that the evidential
and mirative systems in Dzongkha are controlled not only by the semantics of the
verb and syntactic patterns but are controlled by pragmatic factors as well. The
texts analyzed are from the anthology of famous Bhutanese short stories and
historical legends. The paper discusses the extension of the deictic dichotomy
to include grammatical connectives, the ambivalent status of the 2nd person in
the proximate-distal dichotomy, the four kinds of evidentials in Dzongkha
(Zeisler, 2000), the association of 2nd persons with conjunct contexts, the
alternation of the immediate perception past tense marker with the inferred past
tense marker, the two particles fulfilling the mirative functions, the
non-availability of the prototypical conjunct/disjunct complexes found in other
Tibetan languages and the leaking of the omniscient narrator's perspective onto
The significance of Watters' paper lies in the unexpected results it throws up
in a narrative analysis of texts and the contribution it makes to the over-all
framework of text analysis.
Taking up two morpho-syntactic features, case marking patterns and secondary
verb constructions, in two dialects of southern Kham Tibetan, namely, Rgyalthang
and Bathang, Krisadawan Hongladarom in ''Grammatical peculiarities of two
dialects of southern Kham Tibetan'' attempts to see if the peculiar features
found in one and not in the other needs to be characterized as an innovation or
as an areally developed feature and to see if the features shared by both can be
taken to characterize the southern Kham Tibetan. The striking differences
between Rgyalthang and standard Lhasa Tibetan, its geographical contact with
many non-Tibetan languages, Bathang's lesser degree of contact with non-Kham
dialects and little interaction between Rgyalthang and Bathang are the major
factors that underline the study. Bringing out some of the major points of
difference in ERGATIVE marking between Rgyalthang, Bathang and Lhasa Tibetan,
the paper shows that in terms of case marking, Bathang behaves like other Kham
dialects, while the pattern in Rgyalthang is novel to it – whether it is due to
language contact is left to further studies. Contrary to Denwood (1999)'s claim
of no object marking in Tibetan, Kham Tibetan is seen to mark objects with
DATIVE case in both Rgyalthang and Bathang. As for secondary verbs, they are
shown to be distinct from serial verbs; they belong to a closed set and have
mostly lost their lexical status and have developed grammatical meaning. Many of
the secondary verb constructions are similar in meaning and function in both
Rgyalthang and Bathang, a Kham feature.
Hongladarom's paper is significant in highlighting the significant differences
in case marking and in the use of secondary verbs between the major varieties of
Tibetan. That there are significant differences in case marking within the
Tibetan varieties is very well highlighted through this paper.
Questioning previous studies which have concluded that historical labial stops
are commonly spirantized in initial positions in Amdo Tibetan dialects and that
synchronic labial stops are not derived from classical Tibetan and hence are
'secondary phonemes' that have come to these languages from loanwords and
lexical innovations, Karl A. Peet in ''Implications of labial place assimilation
in Amdo Tibetan'' argues that labial stop onsets are preserved in the phonemic
inventories of modern Amdo dialects. His data contradict Jun (2004)'s
phonetically grounded implicational hierarchies of place assimilation for target
manner, place and position. He counters the position that Amdo labials are
secondary phonemes by showing how some labial stops that are spirantized
word-initially appear as labials word-medially in compounds. He argues that the
labial stops found word-initially and word-internally in Pad-ma and rNga-ba, two
Amdo dialects, are historical labial stops. The author notes that modern Amdo
dialects represent various stages along a continuum of diachronic change. He
agrees that labial stops are most susceptible to change compared to other stops
and feels that place assimilation phenomenon in Amdo Tibetan underscores the
vulnerability of labial obstruents across world languages to processes of
weakening and change.
Peet's paper is a caution against uncritical acceptance of broad generalizations
based on cross-linguistic evidence to micro-level linguistic descriptions, in
this case the Amdo dialects and the cross-linguistically attested phenomena –
the loss of labial stops.
Discussing the development of secondary perfective stems by ablauting in
Khalong, spoken in central Rangtang county of Aba Prefecture in Sichuan, by a
strategy strikingly similar to that employed in Showu rGyalrong, a neighboring
non-Tibetan language, Jackson T.-S. Sun's ''Perfective stem renovation in Khalong
Tibetan'' highlights the issue of contact-induced changes on Tibetan due to its
neighboring non-Tibetan languages, which has not attracted much attention of
scholars. Apart from the lexical items that Khalong has borrowed from Showu
rGyalrong, its influence on the verbal morphology of Khalong is the most
striking one. Most Khalong verbs, especially transitive volitional ones,
participate in stem alternation, which is very rare among Tibetan dialects.
Perfective stems from WT have developed into imperfective stems in Khalong, and
synchronically perfective stems are derived from these imperfective stems by
ablauting. Sun shows that other Tibetan dialects have also undergone contact
induced morphological changes, like the verbal orientation marking in Zhingu and
Gami dialects under the influence of Qiang languages in their vicinity. The
phonological aberrations unexpected in Tibetan dialects found in Khalong
perfective stems stand distinct among all Tibetan dialects.
Sun's paper is interesting for the facts it highlights about the effects of
sub-stratum languages on the super-stratum languages.
The last of the papers on Tibetan varieties, Felix Haller's ''Stem alternation
and verbal valence in Themchen Tibetan'', discusses complex verbal morphology in
Themchen Tibetan, an archaic Amdo nomadic dialect, with respect to stem
alternation which is expressed via change of initial segments or by ablaut. Six
classes of verbs are proposed of which only 'control verbs' normally have stem
alternation which are derived from non-control verbs.
Haller's paper is a descriptive account of the interesting morphological
phenomenon of stem alternation and its use for morpho-syntactic purposes.
Yoshiharu Takahashi in ''On the deictic patterns in Kinnauri (Pangi dialect)''
explores verb inflection, deictic patterns of motion verbs and the case-marking
system in Kinnauri (Pangi dialect), spoken in District Kinnaur in Himachal
Pradesh in India. It is by-large an exploration of deictic patterns in Kinnauri
based on DeLancey (1980). DeLancey's claims on the distinction between Speech
Act Participants (SAPs) and everyone else, and the distinction between Speech
Act Location (SAL) and everywhere else as fundamental to the deictic categories
is found true in Kinnauri. SAPs (1st and 2nd persons) outrank the 3rd person in
verbal inflection, deictic pattern of motion verbs and case marking in Kinnauri.
A reciprocal action between SAPs is expressed with a special verb form, marking
the inclusive-exclusive distinction. Verbs of movement in Kinnauri distinguish
SAPs and SALs and the 3rd person by different verb roots and other verbs
distinguish an action towards SAPs from one towards the 3rd person, in the case
of an object, by using the object suffix in a transitive verb. Kinnauri shows a
split-ergative on SAPs and ERGATIVE on 3rd person.
Takahashi's paper provides additional support to DeLancey's (1980) theory of
Anju Saxena's ''Context shift and linguistic coding in Kinnauri narratives'' talks
about the linguistic means of encoding shift in contexts in Kinnauri narratives.
Grammatical markers and structures can help a narrator guide the audience to a
particular perspective, the so-called 'deictic center'. The paper focuses on
context shifts – specifically, a shift between the descriptive mode and the
expressive mode, in terms of grammatical devices. The focus is on the
distribution of referential mention ('He said...') and the ERGATIVE marker. Form
of the referential mention is sensitive to context shift. The relevance of the
notion of the deictic center in text analysis is also discussed. ERGATIVE marker
encodes a shift in the deictic perspective – a shift from the descriptive to the
expressive mode; it also marks contrastive focus. The author uses the Deictic
Center Theory (Duchan, Bruder and Hewitt, 1995) as the theoretical framework for
the analysis. The issue of explicit encoding of participants in terms of their
position vis-à-vis other participants in the prominence hierarchy is also examined.
Saxena's paper highlights the significance of looking at narratives as something
beyond strings of sentences and the importance of understanding shifts in
context in the linguistic analysis of narratives.
''The status of Bunan in the Tibeto-Burman family'' by Suhnu Ram Sharma attempts
to reconsider the classification of the Western Himalayan sub-group within the
Tibeto-Burman family. In Grierson's Linguistic Survey of India, Bunan is
classified as part of the western sub-group of the pronominalized group of
Tibeto-Himalayan branch of Tibeto-Burman family. Shafer (1955) places Bunan as
part of the North-western branch of the West Himalayish section of the Bodic
division of the Sino-Tibetan family. In Bunan many words from Tibetan are
pronounced exactly as they are written while in Tibetan they are not. The shared
lexical cognates between Bunan and Tibetan are higher compared to between Bunan
and Manchad, Byangsi, etc., with which it is sub-grouped by Shafer (1955). Bunan
and Manchad also differ in their pronominal system, the pronominal encoding on
the verb and their vowel inventories. Even the feature of pronominalization is
not as transparent in Bunan as it is in Manchad or Byangsi. Bunan's vowel system
is closer to the proto-Tibetan system of five vowels. Further explorations of
the structural features, both shared and unshared would be required to prove or
disprove Shafer (1955). The terminological confusion caused due to change in
administrative divisions is also discussed.
Sharma's paper takes us a step forward to a better understanding of the
linguistic grouping of Tibetan varieties spoken in Himachal Pradesh in India.
Addressing the relationship between vowels and consonants, Martine Mazaudon in
''A low glide in Marphali'' talks about a low uvular/pharyngeal approximant
partner to a low/open [a] – type vowel, similar to the relationship between [i]
and [j] and [u] and [w], which is transcribed by the author with a diacritic for
non-syllabicity as there is no symbol for this in the IPA chart. The study
proposes a revision of the sonority hierarchy concerning vowels and approximants
and suggests that describing vowels in terms of their articulatory features (as
suggested by Catford (1977)) would be more desirable than the present ones which
use representations in acoustic space. The low approximant in Marphali has to be
understood in terms of the point of stricture, the point of maximal constriction
and whether this coincides with the highest point of the tongue or not. Its
distribution as well as its distinctive qualities is also discussed. The author
believes that the central semi-vowel reported in Gurung is this low glide
because it has a similar distributional pattern. The arguments in the paper are
supported with the help of spectrograms in the appendix.
Mazaudon's paper attempts to give representation to an unrepresented sound in
the IPA chart because of its distinct segmental features and phonological
Evaluating the plural marker [-ca] in Thakali, the enclitic [=ca] functioning as
a kind of demonstrative in Seke, and the contrastive topic marker [-ca] in
Risiangku Tamang as probable cognates, Isao Honda in ''A comparative and
historical study of demonstratives and plural markers in Tamangic languages''
tries to explore the origin of plurals from demonstratives. It explores two
types of historical change which could probably belong to one single chain of
grammaticalization: (a) grammaticalization of demonstratives into definite
articles and 3rd person pronouns (a well attested phenomenon
cross-linguistically); (b) development of plural markers from demonstratives
(rarely attested). The only evidence for the post-nominal appearance of
demonstratives in certain forms called double demonstratives seems like a very
weak argument to show plurals and demonstratives as cognates. In the Tamangic
languages the demonstrative can function as pronouns and definite articles as
well which has been attested in many other languages (cf: Greenberg, 1978;
Givón, 1984). Of the two major criteria against which the author wishes to test
his hypothesis, the relationship between demonstrative, definiteness, articles
and pronouns is validated by both the condition of phonological/morphosyntactic
plausibility and cross-linguistic validity, but that of plurality and
demonstrative is not, and the author acknowledges as much in the concluding remarks.
In this paper Honda feels that the possibility of the derivation of plurals from
demonstratives is not ruled out; however, the arguments are not very convincing.
The presence of the cognate forms of [ca] functioning in many varieties as
plurals is no evidence that they have been all derived from the demonstrative
[ca]. The author's attempts to draw parallels from the Chadic languages based on
parallels between DEFINITIVENESS and PLURALITY are also not very convincing. The
other issues discussed are widely attested phenomena cross-linguistically.
George van Driem's study in ''Dzala and Dakpa form a coherent subgroup within
East Bodish, and some related thoughts'' begins with a mind-boggling analysis of
the various names of Dzala (spoken in eastern Bhutan) and Dakpa (spoken in
Tawang in India and in a few villages in eastern Bhutan abutting Tawang) and
introduces the reader to the various misnomers and multiple terms used to refer
to the same languages. The author shows the intimate genetic proximity of the
two languages by comparing many common Dzala and Dakpa forms like numerals and
personal pronouns. They are shown to be not merely geographical neighbors but
also to be the closest sister languages in the East Bodish sub-branch of
The contiguity of the areas where the languages discussed in van Driem's paper
are spoken and the international boundaries that separate the two areas of the
same language Dakpa would be interesting to study in the future for any effects
such imposed separation might have had on them over the years.
A small closed-class of modifiers like the color terms, the words 'new',
'living', 'round' etc in Limbu which are pronominally marked with [ku-], the 3rd
SINGULAR GENITIVE (its), is the subject of discussion in Boyd Michailovsky's
''Pronominally marked noun determiners in Limbu''. This is taken to be a
grammaticalization of the notion that the quality is 'possessed' by the noun.
The pronominal morphology here is frozen and unproductive. This is a very rare
phenomenon among the Kiranti languages. The pronominal marker is replaced by
nouns in compounds. The pronominal marker which comes with certain adjectives
appears on the dependent modifier and not on the head unlike the presence of
other pronominal markers on nominals like the GENITIVE. The same pronominal
marker appears on words of comparison such as 'like', 'same' etc. There are many
nominals marked with [ku] as well where it implies a relationship to a whole, a
source etc. These are obligatorily possessed nouns. Similar phenomena have been
reported in other East Kiranti languages like Athpare and Belhare as well. There
is a similar particle in Burmese which behaves morpho-syntactically like the
Limbu [ku] but is not a pronominal particle synchronically.
Michailovsky's paper presents an interesting and rare phenomenon for Kiranti
languages, which is a very common feature for the Mon-Khmer languages of
René Huysmans in ''The Sampang word accent: Phonetic realisation and phonological
function'' discusses the stress system in Sampang, a Kiranti language, which is
predictable only for disyllabic nouns and temporal adverbs. It is used to
distinguish meanings (minimal pairs get created if stress position is changed).
It is used to distinguish nouns from verbs, intransitive stems from transitive
ones etc. Sampang is set apart from Dumi, Wambule and Belhare, with which it is
sub-grouped by this system. Further studies are expected to throw light on the
origin of the Sampang accent and on stress assignment in larger domains than
isolated words, which is investigated in this paper.
Huysmans' is an interesting paper of a language which is an accent language in a
family which is known for its many tone-languages.
In ''About Chaurasia'', Jean Robert Opgenort highlights some of the
morpho-syntactic similarities between two varieties called Jero and Wambule and
argues for them to be considered dialects of the same language 'Chaurasia' since
they are also both mutually intelligible apart from their similar linguistic
features. This is in contrast to Hanßon (1991), who has argued for distinct
status for both of them owing to differences in phonology and lexicon. The term
'Chaurasia' is from the old name of the region, meaning 84 counties. The author
argues for his position based on their similarities and differences like the
replacement of Wambule implosives by homorganic nasals in Jero, the
incorporation of non-productive bound noun-classifying formatives, the presence
of phonologically similar dual and plural markers, case markers and discourse
markers, a similar system of pronominals distinguished for person but not for
number, the presence of similar adjectives, numerals, interrogatives and
indefinites and the distinction of transitive, intransitive and middle verbs
with similar markers in both languages among many other similar features.
Opgenort's paper is an attempt to argue for dialect status for two varieties of
the same language which can be called 'Chaurasia' because they are mutually
intelligible and have many common grammatical features. In the South Asian
context where many languages are termed dialects for various socio-political
reasons, the issue raised by this paper is indeed a change in the normal
discourse on language and dialect in this region.
''Reasons for language shift: Theories, myths and counterevidence'' by Dörte
Borchers addresses issues of revitalization of severely threatened languages due
to various factors like the presence of a dominant language (like Nepali
vis-à-vis Sunwar or Hualapai and Rama vis-à-vis English or Sindhi vis-à-vis
English), the economically weaker position of the dominated, etc. Taking up
theories of language shift and proposals of revitalization proposed mainly by
Edwards (1992), and Fishman (1991, 1993) among others, Borchers asserts that all
generalizations based on case studies of single languages can not be believed to
apply on all languages. The myths like the superiority of certain linguistic
codes and the so-called belief in the over burdening nature of multilingual
exposure are critically discussed in the paper.
Borchers' paper does not actually provide any new insights into the issue that
it offers to address and only seems to add an extra case-study, that of Sunwar
(spoken in Eastern Nepal) and judges the situation of language attrition of
Sunwar against existing theories, and interestingly, even in this case, none of
the major positions of the theorists stands challenged. For example her
assertion that all generalizations based on case studies of single languages can
not be believed to apply on all languages is nothing new to say as no theory
based on one language usually stands true completely when applied to other
languages even in the domain of formal studies of language. However, the fact
that most of the major propositions of theorists in this tradition stand true
even in the cases that Borchers takes up only vindicates the necessity of
certain global understanding of the issue of endangerment and revitalization
which come very handy with necessary modifications in every ethnolinguistic
Karumuri Venkata Subbarao, Upen Rabha Hakacham, and Thokchom Sarju Devi in
''Case-marked PRO: Evidence from Rabha, Manipuri, Hindi-Urdu and Telugu'' argue
that PRO is case-marked and give evidence from languages as varied as Rabha and
Manipuri (Tibeto-Burman), Hindi-Urdu (Indo-Iranian) and Telugu (Dravidian). The
argument that PRO is case-marked is contra Chomsky and Lasnik (1995) who have
argued that PRO is null case-marked and such case is checked by a non-finite T.
This position is necessary to account for data concerning conjunctive
participles (CP) in these languages. The authors show that not only is PRO case
marked in Rabha but it can bear a different case from that of the matrix clause.
For Manipuri the argument put forward is that since predicates assign case to a
subject, the PRO must be inherently case marked. However the argument and the
evidence for Manipuri is not as strong as that for Rabha as ''lexical subjects
are not permitted in the subject position of the CP clause in Manipuri'' (312).
The argument for Hindi-Urdu is that since agreement of the verb with the theme
is permitted only when it is non-nominative, whenever there is agreement between
the matrix verb and the embedded clause theme, the PRO must be non-nominative,
that is, case-marked. The CP in Telugu is [+tensed]. The predicate in the CP
clause assigns inherent case to PRO which is coindexed with the matrix subject.
Subbarao et al's paper is very comprehensively argued for and once again
highlights the pitfalls of linguistic theories based entirely on a few European
Since this is a collection of papers, most of my remarks on individual papers
have been included as part of the summary; here I would like to evaluate the
book from the perspective of the entire collection of papers.
The book satisfies the overall aim of the ''Trends in Linguistics, Studies and
Monographs series'' by being very comprehensive in terms of the languages
represented, the issues discussed. In that this collection has some papers which
provide good descriptions of certain linguistic phenomena in a single variety
(cf: Caplow, Haller, Takahashi, Mazaudon, Huysmans, Michailovsky, etc), some
papers which take up theoretical issues (cf: Subbarao et al, Sprigg etc), some
that concentrate on issues of historical reconstruction and relatedness (cf:
Sharma, van Driem, Denwood, Honda, Opgenort etc), some that take up issues of
contact and convergence (cf: Sun, Borchers), some that take up phonological and
morpho-syntactic typological issues (cf: Zeisler, Vollmann, Hongladarom, Peet)
and some that take up linguistic analysis of texts (cf: Watters, Saxena), the
collection is indeed remarkable in the linguistic sub-fields it tries to
straddle. With the focus of the papers on the lesser known varieties of Tibetan
and other less-studied languages of the family, the readers will definitely
benefit from a diversified understanding of various phonological and
morpho-syntactic issues, and matters relating to genetic and geographical
relations between languages in smaller sub-groups in the Tibeto-Burman family.
The advantage of the collection is its staggering diversity in terms of the
languages and varieties discussed and the issues considered, ranging from formal
aspects of language to ethnolinguistic issues. The drawback, if one may call it
so, is that the collection's audience is not clear. From papers ranging in
historical reconstruction to papers arguing theory internal issues in Generative
theory and Systemic theory, from papers discussing aspects of the classical
tradition in Tibetan linguistics to papers in textual analysis, the collection
at times assumes the reader's expertise in multiple specializations of
linguistics for a fuller appreciation. Some papers are well-written
typologically, some are mere re-prints of field-notes, usually involving useful
discussions but leading in general to no typological generalizations.
While the product information on the publisher's site talks about how the ''book
underlines the diversity of the Tibeto-Burman languages...'' the
over-representation of Tibetan in the collection may disappoint many readers as
the title seemed to suggest a much wider and inclusive list. Especially
disappointing is the complete non-representation of most Tibeto-Burman languages
from Northeastern India except Rabha and Manipuri, which may also be due to
non-representation from this region in the symposium.
One of the greatest defects of this collection is the manner in which the
articles are organized in the book. There is no thematic or areal justification
beyond the ordering. The editorial by Roland Bielmeir summarizes all the papers
but not in the order they appear in the book. The order in which the summary has
been presented in this review also follows the ordering in the editorial and not
in the book. Here it is organized language-group wise, with the first ten papers
on Tibetan, the next three on Western Himalayan languages, the next two on the
Tamangic languages, the next one on two east Bodish languages, the next four on
Kiranti languages of Nepal and the last paper on two Tibeto-Burman languages
Rabha and Manipuri from India. One wonders why this organization was not
followed in the arrangement of articles in the book which begins with a paper on
a Kiranti language, moves to two papers on Tibetan, then moves to East Bodish
languages, and then comes back briefly to Tibetan and then moves to Tamangic
languages, then to Tibetan, then to Kiranti, then to Tamangic and then to
With international boundaries separating many of the closely related languages
of this region for the last 60 years, it would be interesting if future research
could throw some light on the synchronic processes of divergence between the
same varieties separated by political boundaries.
Beyer, Stephan V. 1992. _The classical Tibetan language_. Albany: State
University of New York Press.
Catford, John C. 1977. _Fundamental problems in phonetics_. Bloomington/London:
Indiana University Press.
Chomsky, Noam, and Howard Lasnik. 1995. ''The theory of principles and
parameters''. In _The Minimalist program_, ed. by Noam Chomsky, 13-128.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Das, Sarat Chandra. 1902. _A Tibetan-English dictionary with Sanskrit synonyms_.
Alipore, Calcutta: West Bengal Government Press.
DeLancey, Scott. 1980. _Deictic categories in the Tibeto-Burman verb_. PhD
diss., Indiana University.
Denwood, Philip. 1999. _Tibetan_. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Duchan, Judith F., Gail A. Bruder, and Lynne E. Hewitt (eds). 1995. _Deixis in
narrative: A cognitive science perspective_. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Edwards, John. 1992. ''Sociopolitical aspects of language maintenance and loss:
Towards a typology of minority language situations''. In _Maintenance and loss of
minority languages_, ed. by Willem Fase, Koen Jaspaert and Sjaak Kroon, 37-54.
Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Fishman, Joshua A. 1991. _Reversing language shift: Theoretical and empirical
foundations of assistance to threatened languages_.
Clevedon/Philadelphia/Adelaide: Multilingual Matters
Fishman, Joshua A. 1993. ''Reversing language shift: Successes, failures, doubts
and dilemmas''. In hLanguage conflict and language planning_, ed. by Ernst Hakon,
69-81. (Trends in Linguistics, Studies and Monographs 196). Berlin/New York:
Mouton de Gruyter
Givón, Talmy. 1984. _Syntax: A functional-typological introduction_, vol. 1.
Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Greenberg, Joseph H. 1978. ''How does a language acquire gender markers?'' In
_Universals of human language, vol. 3: Word structure,_ ed. by Joseph H
Greenberg, 47-82. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Hanßon, Gerd. 1991. _The Rai of Eastern Nepal: Ethnic and linguistic grouping.
(Findings of the Linguistic Survey of Nepal)_. Kirtipur/Kathmandu: Linguistic
Survey of Nepal and Asian Studies, Tribhuvan University.
Jäschke, Heinrich August. 1881. _A Tibetan-English dictionary: With special
reference to the prevailing dialects: To which is added an English-Tibetan
vocabulary_. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Jun, Jongho. 2004. ''Place assimilation''. In _Phonetically based phonology_, ed.
by Bruce Hayes, Robert Kirchner and Donca Steriade, 58-86. Cambridge: CUP.
Shafer, Robert. 1955. ''Classification of the Sino-Tibetan languages''. _Word_
Zeisler, Bettina. 2000. ''Narrative conventions in Tibetan languages: The issue
of mirativity''. _Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area_ 23(2): 39-77.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Anish Koshy has worked on the Mon-Khmer languages Pnar and Khasi spoken in
Meghalaya in the Northeastern region of India and submitted a dissertation on
the pronominal clitics in these languages at the Jawaharlal Nehru University,
New Delhi. He is presently working on his Doctoral thesis on ''The typology of
clitics in the Austroasiatic languages of India'' at the Jawaharlal Nehru
University, New Delhi while also teaching at the University of Hyderabad,
Hyderabad, India. His career interests include working on lesser-studied
languages of India.
This Year the LINGUIST List hopes to raise $60,000. This money will go to help
keep the List running by supporting all of our Student Editors for the coming year.
See below for donation instructions, and don't forget to check out our Fund Drive
2009 LINGUIST List Restaurant and join us for a delightful treat!
There are many ways to donate to LINGUIST!
You can donate right now using our secure credit card form at
Alternatively you can also pledge right now and pay later. To do so, go to:
For all information on donating and pledging, including information on how to
donate by check, money order, or wire transfer, please visit:
The LINGUIST List is under the umbrella of Eastern Michigan University and as such
can receive donations through the EMU Foundation, which is a registered 501(c) Non
Profit organization. Our Federal Tax number is 38-6005986. These donations can be
offset against your federal and sometimes your state tax return (U.S. tax payers
only). For more information visit the IRS Web-Site, or contact your financial advisor.
Many companies also offer a gift matching program, such that they will match any
gift you make to a non-profit organization. Normally this entails your contacting
your human resources department and sending us a form that the EMU Foundation fills
in and returns to your employer. This is generally a simple administrative procedure
that doubles the value of your gift to LINGUIST, without costing you an extra penny.
Please take a moment to check if your company operates such a program.
Thank you very much for your support of LINGUIST!
Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue