||van Driem, George: East Bodish and Proto-Tibeto-Burman morphosyntax
|Author: van Driem, George|
|Title: East Bodish and Proto-Tibeto-Burman morphosyntax|
|Remark: It was first observed by Robert Shafer that East Bodish languages in many ways retain more conservative traits than other languages of the Bodish branch of Tibeto-Burman. One such language is the newly discovered language of the Black Mountains. This range in the kingdom of Bhutan is a southern spur of the Great Himalayas, which runs from north to south over a distance of some 200 km and separates western from central Bhutan. Six elders of the 'Ole tribe still speak the Black Mountain language on the western slopes, and a number of speakers of Black Mountain still remains on the eastern slopes. An account is given of Black Mountain conjugational morphology, whereby the verb agrees for person and number with both subject and object, i.e. agent and patient. Black Mountain is an East Bodish language, and it is the first and only Bodish language for which such a system has been described. The fact that this flexional system is cognate with the other verbal agreement systems of other Tibeto-Burman languages has clear implications for our understanding of Proto-Tibeto-Burman morphosyntax. Previously, the fact that a verbal agreement system of this type had not yet been attested in any Bodish language was interpreted by some as evidence against the antiquity of such conjugational morphology. This view is no longer tenable. The case of Black Mountain verbal morphology adds to the growing body of evidence that a verbal agreement system was a feature of the Tibeto-Burman proto-language and that conjugational morphology is an archaic retention still found in most branches of the family, especially in languages which are conservative in other respects as well.
Hajime Kitamura, Tatsuo Nishida and Yasuhiko Nagano (ed.), Current Issues in Sino-Tibetan Linguistics. 1994. The Organizing Committee of the 26th International Conference on Sino-Tibetan Languages and Linguistics, Osaka.