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Abstract

Abstract

Through comparison of regular sound correspondences in three closely related Tibeto-Burman (TB) languages, Ersu, Lizu, and Duoxu (collectively “ELD”), informed by external comparison with other TB languages and recent phonetic analyses of the production of voiceless nasals, we reconstruct *fricative-nasal sequences in their common ancestor, Proto-ELD.

In the development of these historic clusters, two pathways of change can be recognized. Their difference lies in the divergent relative phasing of velic and oral gestures in the original fricative-nasal sequences:

  • (i)  fricative weakening (from a tight cluster): *FN > N̥ > h̃ > x
  • (ii)  fricative strengthening (from a loose cluster): *F-n > *F-t > t > k or *F‑n > s

The different reflexes observed in Ersu, Lizu, and Duoxu represent different points along these two developmental pathways. These reconstructions and pathways of development have implications for our understanding of both universal (phonetic) and language-specific aspects of change in fricative-nasal sequences. The first pathway makes it possible to explore the process of nasal devoicing beyond voiceless nasals so as to enrich our understanding of nasal devoicing in natural languages. The co-existence of two opposite pathways of change, on the other hand, provides insights into the morphological and syllabic structure of words with contiguous fricative-nasal sequences in ELD languages at different points in time – insights that may be valuable in examining the history of other languages and language families beyond the ELD cluster.

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2022-06-21
2022-08-12
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