The Tibeto-Burman Linguistics Domain

Recent publications and MA/PhD theses on Tibeto-Burman languages

(click on title for download or more information)

KONNERTH, Linda. 2014. A Grammar of Karbi. University of Oregon PhD dissertation. Karbi is a Tibeto-Burman (TB) language spoken by half a million people in the Karbi Anglong district in Assam, Northeast India, and surrounding areas in the extended Brahmaputra Valley area. This dissertation offers a description of the dialect spoken in the hills of the Karbi Anglong district. It is primarily based on a corpus that was created during a total of fifteen months of original fieldwork, while building on and expanding on research reported by Grüßner in 1978. While the exact phylogenetic status of Karbi inside TB has remained controversial, this dissertation points out various putative links to other TB languages. Audio files are available of the texts given in the appendices, particular examples illustrating phonological issues, and phonetic recordings of tone minimal sets:

BRUHN, Daniel Wayne. 2014. A Phonological Reconstruction of Proto-Central Naga. University of California, Berkeley PhD dissertation. This dissertation presents a preliminary reconstruction of the phonology and lexicon (268 items) of Proto-Central Naga (PCN), the putative ancestor of a group of Tibeto-Burman languages spoken primarily in Nagaland, a state in northeast India: Ao, Lotha, Sangtam, and Yimchungrü. Also reconstructed in the process is the phonology and lexicon (386 items) of Proto-Ao (PAo), the intermediate ancestor of the Ao lects. Teleo-reconstructions of Proto-Tibeto-Burman (PTB) are drawn upon to examine the sound changes that took place in the development from PTB to the Central Naga languages. Chapter I (Introduction) provides background information on the Central Naga languages and discusses the history of scholarship on this group. Chapter II (Proto-Ao) reconstructs the phonology and lexicon of Proto-Ao, the intermediate ancestor of the Ao branch of Central Naga. Chapter III (Proto-Central Naga) reconstructs the phonology and lexicon of Proto-Central Naga. Chapter IV (Conclusion) examines the place of the Central Naga group within the Tibeto-Burman family based on a study of shared phonological innovations. The dissertation is then concluded with a discussion of future directions in diachronic research on the CN languages.

OISEL, Guillaume. 2013. Morphosyntaxe et Semantique des Auxiliaires et des Connecteurs du Tibetain Litteraire: Etude Diachronique et Synchronique. Universite Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3 PhD thesis. The analysis of the literary Tibetan verb system is an object of typological interest for several reasons. Firstly, it allows us to look at the evolution of the verb system notably auxiliary verb constructions and clause linking during a period of more than a thousand years. Classical Tibetan has the advantage of having preserved almost the same orthography during this very long period of time. I decided to focus on the fifteenth century by selecting a well-known book as a main corpus: the Life of Milarepa. I then compared the verb system of this period with contemporary literary Tibetan. The main reason for this study is to better understand the emergence of an auxiliary verb system in middle Tibetan which marks evidentiality, that is to say the grammaticalization of the epistemological source and the access to information. Literary Tibetan is the only language in Asia with an ancient history which has developed a complex evidential verb system. Apart from the analysis of grammatical semantics, the second reason for this study is my interest in the syntax of auxiliary verb constructions and of clause linking in middle Tibetan and their evolution in contemporary Tibetan. My data on literary Tibetan and my synchronic and diachronic analysis may make a significant contribution to the typological studies of evidentiality and epistemic modality as well as of the syntax of auxiliary verb constructions and clause linking.

Nicolas Tournadre, Lhakpa Norbu Sherpa, Gyurme Chodrak, and Guillaume Oisel. 2009. Sherpa-English and English Sherpa Dictionary with Literary Tibetan and Nepali Equivalents. Vajra Publications. There are three sections to this book: five introductory chapters, the body of the dictionary, and four appendices. The introductory chapters provide background on the Sherpa people and the Sherpa-speaking area (Chapter 1), the Sherpa language (Chapter 2), the system of romanization used in this dictionary to represent Sherpa pronunciation (Chapter 3), the Sambhota script as it is used to write Sherpa (Chapter 4), and a guide for users of the dictionary (Chapter 5). The body of the dictionary consists of three parts: first a Sherpa-English-Nepali dictionary, next an English-Sherpa dictionary , and finally a Nepali-Sherpa dictionary. The appendices provide further linguistic detail on the system of transliteration (Appendix 1), factors taken into consideration in developing a script for Sherpa (Appendix 2), the main phonological and morphological characteristics of Sherpa (Appendix 3), and a table of irregular verb forms (Appendix 5).

VOKURKOVÁ, Zuzana. 2008. Epistemic Modalities in Spoken Standard Tibetan. Universite Charles and Universite Paris 8 PhD thesis. In my dissertation, I analyze epistemic modalities in spoken Standard Tibetan (SST), an SOV language. As it is the case in many languages with a verb-final word order, in SST, grammatical meanings, e.g. modality, are marked at the end of the verbal domain by verbal suffixes, markers or endings depending on the adopted terminology. In my study, I use the term ‘verbal endings’. Some verbal endings function as markers of evidentiality. In this dissertation, they are called ‘evidential endings’. The use of these verbal endings is obligatory in spoken Tibetan but most of the time optional in the literary language. Moreover, their use is different in literary Tibetan. In addition to evidential endings, in SST, there are also verbal endings which express various degrees of the speaker’s certainty of the actuality of his utterance. These are called ‘epistemic endings’. Both types of endings may be gathered under the term ‘TAM verbal endings’ because they all express, besides modality, the various tense-aspects. While the Tibetan evidential endings have drawn attention of some authors, very little has been written about the epistemic endings. In consequence, I decided to focus my interest on this part of the Tibetan grammar. My intention was to classify all types of epistemic endings used in SST and to analyze them from a syntactic, semantic and pragmatic point of view.

Hyslop, Gwendolyn; Stephen Morey; and Mark W. Post. 2012. North East Indian Linguistics Volume 4. NEIL4 brings together current research on a wide variety of North East Indian languages, with major sections on History, Contact and Evolution, Bodo-Garo Grammar, Orthography, Poetics and Text, New Descriptions, Classifiers, Eastern Indo-Aryan Grammar, and Austroasiatic. As with previous NEILS volumes, proceeds from the sales of NEIL4 will contribute to NEILS' local activities, including documentation and other training workshops in the North East Indian region. So, please be a good neighbour and ask your local library to purchase a copy, and consider reviewing the volume for your favourite journal! Customers in India may either contact DVS Publishers in Guwahati or order directly from Cambridge University Press India. International customers may find it easiest to order from an online distributor such as or The Book Depository.

Sangdong, David. 2012. A grammar of the Kadu (Asak) language. PhD dissertation, La Trobe University. This thesis is a grammatical description of Kadu–a Tibeto-Burman language spoken in Katha district of Sagaing division, Myanmar. Chapter 1 is an introduction to the language and its speakers. Chapter 2 is an outline of the phonological structure of Kadu. Chapter 3 looks at the word classes and word-forming processes. Chapters 4 to 6 look at nominal aspects of the grammar. Chapter 4 discusses the structure of the noun phrase, while the well-developed system of numeral classifiers in Kadu is discussed in Chapter 5. Chapter 6 looks at case marking postpositions. Chapter 7 looks at the elements that make up the verb complex in Kadu. It discusses post-verbal modifiers such as auxiliary verbs, verbal particles, and modal auxiliaries. Clause final particles and aspectual particles are also looked at in this chapter. Chapter 8 looks at the general structure of the clause. The structures of interrogative and negative clauses are discussed in Chapters 9 and 10 respectively. Chapter 11 looks at complex structures. It covers topics such as subordination, coordination, and narrative structures.

Yu, Dominic. 2012. Proto-Ersuic. PhD dissertation, University of California, Berkeley. This is a reconstruction of Proto-Ersuic, the ancestor language of Lizu, Tosu, and Ersu, three closely related languages spoken in southwestern Sichuan which are generally considered to be part of the Qiangic branch of Tibeto-Burman. Approximately 800 lexical items are reconstructed based primarily on data from six sources: Mianning Lizu (data collected by the author in Mianning County, Sichuan, in 2008 and 2010), two sources for Kala Lizu (Muli County, one modern and one older source), Naiqu Lizu (Jiulong County), and two varieties of Ersu (Zeluo and Qingshui, both in Ganluo County). Chapters 3 and 4 lay out the complete inventory of Proto-Ersuic initials and rhymes, supported by cognate sets demonstrating regular sound correspondences, with exceptions carefully noted. Chapter 5 offers a tentative reconstruction of the lexical tones of Proto-Ersuic. Chapter 6 presents an outline of shared morphosyntax that can be reconstructed to the Proto-Ersuic level. Chapter 7 brings together all the sound changes implicit or explicit in Chapters 3 and 4, organizing them by language, and ordering them chronologically. From these sound changes emerges a picture of the internal structure (i.e. subgrouping) of Ersuic. Chapter 8 takes a top-down approach, examining the sound changes from Proto-Tibeto-Burman to Proto-Ersuic and attempting to find regular patterns in the development of Proto-Tibeto-Burman rhymes, initials, and prefixes. The final chapter (Chapter 9) addresses the place of Proto-Ersuic in Tibeto-Burman.

Lidz, Liberty A . 2010. A Descriptive Grammar of Yongning Na (Mosuo). PhD dissertation, University of Texas at Austin. This dissertation is a descriptive grammar of Yongning Na (Mosuo), a Tibeto- Burman language spoken in southwestern China. The theoretical approaches taken are functional syntax and the discourse-based approach to language description and documentation. The aim of this dissertation is to describe the ways that the language’s features and subsystems intersect to make Na a unique entity: analycity; zero anaphora; OV word order; topic/comment information structure; a five-part evidential system; a conjunct/disjunct-like system that intersects with evidentiality and verbal semantics; prolific grammaticalization; overlap between nominalization and relativization and associated structures; representation of time through aspect, Aktionsart, adverbials, and context; and the Daba shamanic register. Topics covered in the grammar include a description of the sociolinguistic environment; the phonemic inventory; phonological processes; compounding; word classes; the structure of noun phrases; the classifier system; types of possession; methods for quantification; grammatical relations and non-systemic ‘ergative’ and ‘anti-ergative’ marking; the structure of verb phrases; the multiple existential verbs; the aspectual system; evidentiality; grammaticalization; clause-combining; narrative texts; and lexicon.

Hyslop, Gwendolyn, Stephen Morey & Mark William Post. 2010. North East Indian Linguistics Vol. 3. Cambridge University Press. Hardback ISBN: 9788175967939; Pages: 276; Price: U.S. $35.00. North East Indian Linguistics Volume 3 presents the latest in descriptive and anthropological linguistic research on the languages of the North East Indian region. Long acknowledged to be among the culturally and linguistically richest and most diverse regions of all Asia , North East India also remains to this day one of the least well-studied and well-understood. The collection of papers in this volume directly address this problem by presenting description and analysis of a wide variety of phonological, syntactic, morphological, sociolinguistic and historical topics in the study of several languages of the region. This volume reflects the current state of research in North East Indian Linguistics on the parts of local, national and international scholars alike and will be of interest to linguists, anthropologists, and other social scientists and general readers with an interest in the study, preservation and appreciation of North East Indian cultural and linguistic diversity.

King, Deborah. Dec 2010. Voice and valence-altering operations In Falam Chin: A Role and Reference Grammar approach. PhD dissertation, The University of Texas at Arlington. Abridged abstract: This dissertation describes and analyzes voice and valence-altering operations in Falam Chin, a Tibeto-Burman language of Burma. The data is explained within the framework of Role and Reference Grammar (RRG), which supplies several key concepts particularly useful for generalizing the behavior of the Falam Chin operations. The first is RRG’s system of semantic decomposition, based on Dowty 1979, which is used to formulate each predicate’s underlying logical structure (LS). Second is the concept of macroroles, generalized semantic roles actor and undergoer, which are assigned to the arguments of a predicate according to a hierarchy of LS positions. M-transitivity refers to the number of macroroles assigned to a given predicate (Van Valin & LaPolla 1997; Van Valin 2005). Within this framework, each of the primary voice and valence-altering operations of Falam Chin are shown to be lexical operations which affect the underlying LS and/or macrorole assignment of the base predicate.

Morey, Stephen & Mark William Post. 2010. North East Indian Linguistics Vol. 2. Cambridge University Press. Hardback ISBN: 9788175967144; Pages: 268; Price: U.S. $28.00. North East Indian Linguistics Volume 2 is the second in a series of selected papers presented at the International Conferences of the North East Indian Linguistics Society (NEILS), a forum for the study of the languages of North East India. The North East Indian languages are the richest and most diverse, yet also one of the least-well-known regions of the linguistics world. NEILS brings together local scholars, students, and well-known researchers from India and across the world to present the latest in research on North East Indian languages and cultures. The book essentially discusses tonology and phonology in the Assam floodplain. They bring together extensive information on tone in Bodo and Dimasa, studies of Tai Phake songs, the Ahom Bar Amra manuscripts, and the Barpetia dialect of Assamese. A special section on numerals also presents a comparative study of Tibeto-Burman numeral systems and more detailed accounts of Khasi, Karbi, Kom and Aimol.

Button, Christopher Thomas James. 2009. A Reconstruction of Proto Northern Chin in Old Burmese and Old Chinese Perspective. PhD dissertation, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. The phonology, morphology and semantics of six Northern Chin languages are investigated in terms of their relationships with Old Burmese and Old Chinese. Regular correspondences are achieved through a vertical two vowel system and a segmentally derived three tone system. A word list with reconstructed Northern Chin forms, of which several are used in the comparisons with Old Burmese and Old Chinese throughout the work, is included as an appendix. An extensively revised version has been published (2011) as STEDT Monograph #10.

van Breugel, Seino (Jonkheer Egbert Joost Seino Clifford Kocq van Breugel). 2009. A Grammar of Atong. PhD dissertation, La Trobe University, Melbourne. Atong is a Tibeto-Burman language spoken in the South Garo Hills district of Meghalaya State in Northeast India. The grammar is based primarily on data collected during a total of twelve months of fieldwork, spread out over two trips, between 2005 and 2007, in the villages of Badri Maidugytym and Siju. The grammar consists of 29 chapters. The first is a general introduction to the Atong language, its speakers and also discusses its possible historical affiliations. Chapter 2 describes the phonology and discusses the phenomenon of glottalisation. Chapter 3 gives an overview of the word classes. The different word classes are discussed in detail in Chapters 4 to 17. Chapter 18 describes the different types of word-class-changing derivation. Chapters 19 and 20 describe the phrasal morphology of the language. Chapter 21 treats the subject of transitivity, which plays only a minor role in the language. Chapters 22 to 25 describe the predicate and predicate morphology. Chapter 26 gives an overview of the different clause types, some of which are treated in more detail in that chapter, while others are treated in chapters 27 to 29. There are two appendices to this thesis. The first appendix contains five Atong texts of different genres. Four of them are fully glossed and translated, one serves as an example of the seemingly dying practice of spirit incantation and cannot be translated. The second appendix is an Atong-English dictionary. The Atong entries and examples in this dictionary are written in the orthography van Breugel designed for the language.

Rwbaa, Post et al. 2009. A Galo-English Dictionary (International Edition). Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh, Galo Welfare Society. "Warning! Downloading this file constitutes an undertaking that you will *not* disseminate it further in electronic form. This request has been made by the copyright owners, the Galo Welfare Society. Thank you in advance for your cooperation."

Morey, Stephen & Mark Post, eds. 2008. North East Indian Linguistics. New Delhi: Cambridge University Press India (HB & 284pp; ISBN 9788175966000; $32.00). The North East of India is one of the most rich and diverse cultural-linguistic regions of Asia. However, awareness of this is not widespread and as a result, the linguistic abundance of the region has not been sufficiently appreciated. Students and scholars from different parts of India and the world are now making efforts to turn around this scenario. North East Indian Linguistics is a result of such concerted attempts. This book is the first published collection of selected articles on North East Indian linguistics. The articles represent the current state of research in the field. The authors have adopted a variety of approaches to the study of the multifarious North East Indian languages – Ao (Naga), Assamese, Atong (Bodo-Garo), Bishnupriya, Garo, Khamti (Tai), Khasi, Kurtoep, Singpho, and the Tani languages, Apatani, Galo and Mising. The areas addressed in this book include descriptive phonology, lexicon, morphosyntax and semantics. The book also discusses general topics regarding fieldwork and orthography development.

Coupe, A.R. 2007. A grammar of Mongsen Ao. Mouton Grammar Library 39. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter. 

Post, Mark. 2007. A grammar of Galo. PhD dissertation, La Trobe University, Melbourne.
This work is the first comprehensive descriptive grammar of the Lare dialect of Galo, a Tibeto-Burman language of the Tani branch spoken in central Arunachal Pradesh State, in the North East Indian Himalaya. It is based on primary data obtained from original fieldwork conducted by the author in Galo towns and villages in Arunachal Pradesh over three years. In addition to description of the synchronic phonology and grammar of Lare Galo, it contains a historical overview and preliminary reconstruction of Proto-Galo segmental phonology, in addition to a glossary of approximately 1,300 lexical roots with 4,000 lexical exemplars and three fully analyzed texts. 

Willis, Christina M. 2007. A Descriptive Grammar of Darma: An Endangered Tibeto-Burman Language. PhD dissertation, The University of Texas at Austin. Darma is a Tibeto-Burman language spoken in the eastern corner of the state of Uttarakhand, India. With fewer than 2,600 speakers and no writing system, Darma is considered endangered. This dissertation is the most comprehensive description of Darma to date. Darma is widely described as a western Himalayish language that is closely related to Byansi, Chaudangsi and Rangkas. The data presented in this dissertation were obtained through direct elicitation, participant observation, and the discourse-centered approach to data collection advocated by Joel Sherzer, which relies on naturally occurring speech, including conversation, stories, songs and public dialogues. The resulting data are contextualized in a cultural framework, and the majority of examples presented come from these texts. The dissertation is presented in five sections and includes a glossary. The first section provides background information on the Darma people, the language, and how this project came about. The second section describes the sound system of Darma, including its typologically unusual class of oral stops. The third section introduces the words that comprise a noun phrase including nouns, personal pronouns, and pronominal demonstrative forms, which are marked on a spatial axis (e.g. proximate, neutral, distal, and non-visible). The fourth section examines the affixes that combine with verb stems to form clauses and sentences. This includes a discussion of the basic SV/AOV constituent order, and the ergative/absolutive alignment system. Here nominalization/relativization, a common feature of Tibeto-Burman languages, is also presented along with the clause chaining strategy commonly found in narrative discourse.

< Back