Finite structures from clausal nominalization in Tibeto-Burman

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Nominalization has long been recognized as one of the driving processes of Tibeto-Burman syntax and syntactic change. A pervasive and recurrent process in the family is the replacement of old finite clause structures with new constructions based on nominalizations. TB languages repeatedly innovate new, marked clausal constructions with a nominalized verb and finite copula. The process is exemplified through case studies from Tibetan, Sunwar (from the Kiranti branch of TB), and the Kuki-Chin branch. Frequently such constructions lose their marked status and become the ordinary finite construction, resulting in the creation of new verbal categories and systems. Many TB verbal systems transparently reflect this origin, for example Modern Tibetan tense/aspect forms like -<i>pa yin, -pa red</i>, both consisting of the nominalizer -<i>pa</i> in construction with an equational copula. As such a construction becomes more opaque, a language may be left with a semantically empty final particle, reflecting an erstwhile nominalizer or copula. The prevalence of such final particles in the family is evidence of the pervasiveness of the phenomenon which is described in this paper.


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