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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/33911

Title: Retroflex Consonant Harmony in South Asia
Authors: Arsenault, Paul Edmond
Advisor: Rice, Keren
Department: Linguistics
Keywords: Phonology
Retroflex
Consonant Harmony
Assimilation
South Asia
Indo-Aryan
Dravidian
Munda
Issue Date: 6-Dec-2012
Abstract: This dissertation explores the nature and extent of retroflex consonant harmony in South Asia. Using statistics calculated over lexical databases from a broad sample of languages, the study demonstrates that retroflex consonant harmony is an areal trait affecting most languages in the northern half of the South Asian subcontinent, including languages from at least three of the four major families in the region: Dravidian, Indo-Aryan and Munda (but not Tibeto-Burman). Dravidian and Indo-Aryan languages in the southern half of the subcontinent do not exhibit retroflex consonant harmony. In South Asia, retroflex consonant harmony is manifested primarily as a static co-occurrence restriction on coronal consonants in roots/words. Historical-comparative evidence reveals that this pattern is the result of retroflex assimilation that is non-local, regressive and conditioned by the similarity of interacting segments. These typological properties stand in contrast to those of other retroflex assimilation patterns, which are local, primarily progressive, and not conditioned by similarity. This is argued to support the hypothesis that local feature spreading and long-distance feature agreement constitute two independent mechanisms of assimilation, each with its own set of typological properties, and that retroflex consonant harmony is the product of agreement, not spreading. Building on this hypothesis, the study offers a formal account of retroflex consonant harmony within the Agreement by Correspondence (ABC) model of Rose & Walker (2004) and Hansson (2001; 2010). Two Indo-Aryan languages, Kalasha and Indus Kohistani, figure prominently throughout the dissertation. These languages exhibit similarity effects that have not been clearly observed in other retroflex consonant harmony systems; retroflexion is contrastive in both non-sibilant (i.e., plosive) and sibilant obstruents (i.e., affricates and fricatives), but harmony applies only within each manner class, not between them. At the same time, harmony is not sensitive to laryngeal features. Theoretical implications of these and other similarity effects are discussed.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/33911
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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