TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE: THE AERODYNAMIC VOICING CONSTRAINT
AND THE LANGUAGES OF BORNEO
University of Hawai’i
ABSTRACT. A hallmark of any good scientific theory is its ability to derive two or more superficially unconnected phenomena from a single unifying principle.
A classic example is Newton’s gravitation theory, in which Kepler’s laws of motion for the planets orbiting the sun and Galileo’s laws of motion for objects falling on the earth ----both of which had previously been recognized as valid but unconnected statements about physical processes ---- were shown to reflect the same fundamental force (gravity). This talk draws attention to the identity of a basic phonological process that has taken divergent paths in the history of particular languages or language groups. In particular, it is argued that the historical development of true voiced aspirates [bph], [dth], [gkh] in the Kelabit-Lun Dayeh languages of Borneo, and the replacement of word-final voiced stops by the homorganic nasals in a number of languages in Borneo are outcomes of the same phonetic limitation, namely the aerodynamic voicing constraint (AVC).
In alphabetical order
Scott DeLancey (born 1949) is an American linguist from the University of Oregon. His work focuses on typology and historical linguistics of Tibeto-Burman languages as well as North American indigenous languages such as the Penutian family, particularly the Klamath. His research is known for its diversity of its thematic and theoretical reach.
Born in Bangkok, Professor Weera Ostapirat received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and specializes in Southeast Asian linguistics. His main interest and current research focus on the genetic relationship and the interaction among languages of southern China and mainland Southeast Asian area.
Robert A. Blust (born 1940, Chinese: 白樂思; pinyin: Bái Lèsī) is a prominent linguist in several areas, including historical linguistics, lexicography and ethnology. Blust specializes in the Austronesian languages and has made major contributions to the field of Austronesian linguistics.
Internal and external history of the Central branch of Tibeto-Burman/Trans-Himalayan
University of Oregon
After over a century of research, the subclassification of the Trans-Himalayan or Sino-Tibetan family remains uncertain and controversial, from the highest level (is there a Tibeto-Burman clade?) to the lowest (is there a subgroup which includes Ao and Angami?). This is partly a result of external historial events, as many languages and branches have been subject to intense contact of one kind or another, resulting in pervasive creolization (DeLancey 2014a).
I have recently presented evidence that the Trans-Himalayan languages spoken from western Yunnan across northern Myanmar and Northeast India constitute a distinct Central branch of the family (DeLancey 2015). The conservative Central languages – Jinghpaw, Northern Naga, and South Central or Kuki-Chin – share a typologically unusual verbal construction which is reconstructable as a defining Central innovation (DeLancey 2014b, 2015).
This is not a new suggestion, but is difficult to demonstrate due to the chaotic patterns of correspondence among the various languages, and the dramatic typological innovation of the languages of the Naga Belt – a region of the Indo-Myanmar borderland, about 350 km north to south, bordered by conservative Northern Naga languages to the north and the conservative Northwestern (“Old Kuki”) and Northeastern (“Northern Chin) Kuki-Chin languages. The Naga Belt languages have never been shown to form a clade, but all share the transparent, shallowly-grammaticalized morphological profile of Bodo-Garo to the west and Burmese to the east, in sharp contrast to their morphologically complex relatives to the north and south.
In the first part of this talk I will review the kinds of evidence which support the unity of the Central branch, and the ways in which the distribution of corresponding forms across the languages and groups makes it difficult to construct a tree for the internal genetic structure of the branch. In the second part I will suggest that these languages are better seen as “linkage”, in the sense of Ross 1988 and François 2014. Finally I will argue that while the patterns of correspondences which link the Central languages appear chaotic and inexplicable in purely linguistic terms, they make sense in terms of the external history of the languages, particularly the rise and fall of the Pyu and Chin city-states in Burma during the 1st and early 2nd millennium CE.
Paul Jen-kuei Li
Establishing Genetic Relationship between Language Families
in Southeast Asia on a More Solid Linguistic Basis
Paul Jenkuei Li
I shall review various hypotheses concerning the genetic relationships between the language families in Southeast Asia. These include Sino-Tibetan, Sino-Tai, Austro-Tai, Austric, Sino-Austronesian, and Sino-Miao-Yao. Which ones are reliable? How can we establish genetic relationship on a solid linguistic basis?
Vocabulary gets borrowed easily; for example, a whole set of numerals can be borrowed from one language to another, such as the Japanese loans from Chinese. However, it is much more difficult to borrow a whole set of personal pronouns, which manifest a grammatical paradigm. We may be able to identify very few true cognates between distantly related language families, as in the case of Austronesian and Austroasiatic. Vestiges of morphological resemblance can provide a much better clue for a linguistic genetic relationship (Sapir 1921).
The genetic relationship between Chinese and Tibeto-Burman languages is very well established. The Austric hypothesis is fairly well established, but it can still be further strengthened. There is a good chance for Austro-Tai or Austro-Kra-Dai. There is not much chance for Sino-Tai or Sino-Austronesian, and perhaps even less chance for Sino-Miao-Yao.
Reconstructing Disyllabic Kra-Dai
I have earlier presented a reconstruction of Proto-Kra (Ostapirat 2000), which contains several sesquisyllabic or iambic etyma. Some modern Kra languages, such as Buyang and Laha, have retained direct evidence of such iambic forms. It has become clear, however, that we also need to reconstruct complex forms side by side monosyllabic forms in all major Kra-Dai branches (Proto-Hlai, Proto-Kam-Sui and Proto-Tai). In my proposed Proto-Hlai system (Ostapirat 2004), I have further reconstructed the distinct vowels, *i, *u, *a, in the first syllable of the complex forms.
Evidence of these first-syllable vowels can be found in Tai and Kam-Sui as well (Ostapirat 2005, 2013a, 2013b). In a number of cases, we thus in fact have to reconstruct the fully disyllabic Kra-Dai forms, not simply sesquisyllabic forms of the Mon-Khmer type. In this talk, I will elaborate and put together various evidence in reconstructing Proto-Kra-Dai disyllabic forms.