Karenic languages

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Karenic
Ethnicity Karen people
Geographic
distribution
south-eastern Myanmar, western Thailand
Linguistic classification Sino-Tibetan
  • Karenic
Subdivisions
ISO 639-2 / 5 kar
Glottolog kare1337[1]

The Karen /kəˈrɛn/[2] or Karenic languages are tonal languages spoken by some seven million Karen people. They are of unclear affiliation within the Sino-Tibetan languages.[3] The Karen languages are written using the Burmese script.[4] The three main branches are Sgaw, Pwo, and Pa'o. Karenni (also known as Kayah or Red Karen) and Kayan (also known as Padaung) are related to the Sgaw branch. They are unusual among the Sino-Tibetan languages in having a subject–verb–object word order; other than Karen, Bai, and the Chinese languages, Sino-Tibetan languages have a subject–object–verb order.[5] This is likely due to influence from neighboring Mon and Tai languages.[6]

Classification[edit]

Because they differ from other Tibeto-Burman languages in morphology and syntax, Benedict (1972: 2–4, 129) removed the Karen languages from Tibeto-Burman in a Tibeto-Karen branch, but this is no longer accepted.[3][6]

The internal structure of the family is as follows:

Manson (2011)[edit]

Manson (2011) classifies the Karen languages as follows, with each primary branch characterized by phonological innovations:[7]

Karen
  • Peripheral: proto-voiced stop initials appearing as aspirated stops (e.g. *p > pʰ)
  • Northern: merger of nasal finals (e.g. *am, *an > aɴ), merger of stop-final rhymes with the open counterpart (e.g. *aʔ, *a > a)
  • Central: vowel raising (e.g. *a > ɛ)
  • Southern: merger of nasal-final rhymes, with the rhyme subsequently raised (e.g. *am, *aŋ > ɔ)

The classifications of Geker, Gekho, Kayaw, and Manu are ambiguous, as they may be either Central or Southern.

Shintani (2012)[edit]

Shintani Tadahiko (2012:x)[8] gives the following tentative classification, proposed in 2002, for what he calls the "Brakaloungic" languages, of which Karen is a branch. Individual languages are marked in italics.

Brakaloungic

However, at the time of publication, Shintani (2012) reports that there are more than 40 Brakaloungic languages and/or dialects, many of which have only been recently reported and documented. Shintani also reports that Mon influence is present in all Brakaloungic languages, while some also have significant Burmese and Shan influence.

The Kayan languages are spoken in Kayah State, southern Shan State, and northern Karen State. There are four branches according to Shintani (2016)[12], namely Kangan ("lowland dwellers"), Kakhaung ("highland dwellers"), Lawi ("South"), and Latha ("North").[13] Nangki (sometimes called Langki), documented in Shintani (2016), is one of the Kayan languages belonging to the Kakhaung subgroup. It is spoken only in one village.

Kadaw is spoken in Kayah State, and has nasalized vowels but no final nasal consonants.[13] It has more Burmese than Shan influence.

Tones[edit]

Ken Manson (2009) reconstructs three proto-Karen tonal categories *A, *B and *B' for syllables with vocalic or nasal codas, and a fourth category *C for syllables with a glottal stop coda. These tones subsequently split in different ways in different subgroups, conditioned by the manner of the initial consonant. Manson gave a sample of diagnostic words for use during field elicitation to classify Karenic languages:[14]

Diagnostic words for proto-Karen tone categories (Manson 2009)[14]
Initial consonant Tone class
*A *B *B′ *C
Aspirated stops,
voiceless sonorants
1 (III)

Water [*tʰi]
Branch [*pʰaŋ]
Flower [*pʰɔ]
Chicken [*sʰan]
Sleep [*m̥i]
Die [*tʰi]

4 (VI)

Star [*sʰa]
Leaf [*l̥a]
Fingernail [*m̥i]
Fire [*m̥e]
Give [*pʰe]
Bitter [*kʰa]

7 (Va)

Bone [*kʰri]
Child [*pʰo]
Right [*tʰwe]
Spicy [*hɛ]
Take [*pʰi]
Pus [*pʰi/mi]

10 (VIII)

Sky [*m̥oʔ]
Iron [*tʰaʔ]
Pig [*tʰɔʔ]
Skin/bark [*pʰeʔ]
Shoot (v.) [*kʰaʔ]
Dark [*kʰeʔ/kʰuʔ]

Voiceless stops 2 (II)

Silver [*rɔn]
Ginger [*ʔeŋ]
Rabbit [*tɛ]
Navel [*te]
Spear [*pan]
White [*pwa]

5 (VIa)

Egg [*ti]
Cheek [*pu]
Liver [*sɨn]
Eat [*ʔam]
Left [*se]
Be at, exist [*ʔɔ]

8 (V)

Paddy [*pɨ]
Blow/howl [*ʔu]
Head [*klo]
Hand [*su]
Breathe [*sa]
Many [*ʔa]

11 (VIIIa)

Alcohol [*siʔ]
Wing [*teʔ]
Heart [*saʔ]
Call/shout [*kaʔ]
Near [*pɔʔ]

Voiced stops
and sonorants
3 (I)

Nest [*bwe]
Tongue [*ble]
Person [*bra]
Name [*min]
Drunk [*mun]
Red [*le]

6 (IV)

Sun [*mɤ]
Stone [*loŋ]
Snake [*ru]
Arrow [*bla]
Old [humans] [*bra]
Hot [*go]

12 (VII)

Monkey [*zoʔ]
Eye/face [*meʔ]
Brain [*nɔʔ]
Intestines [*breʔ]
Rib [*rɤʔ]
Deep [*jɔʔ]

Sound changes[edit]

Theraphan Luangthongkum[15] lists the following sound changes that had taken place during the transition from Proto-Tibeto-Burman (PTB; James Matisoff's reconstruction) to Proto-Karenic (PK; Luangthongkum's own reconstruction).

  • Retention of the PTB low central vowel *a in PK
  • Retention of the PTB final nasals *-m, *-n, *-ŋ in PK
  • PTB *voiced onsets > PK *voiceless or *glottalised onsets
  • PTB prefix *s- followed by a stem with *voiced sonorant > PK *voiceless initials
  • PTB *voiceless unaspirated stop initials > PK *voiceless aspirated stop initials
  • PTB voiced rhotic *-r > PK *-Ø
  • PTB *voiceless alveolar fricative *-s > PK *voiceless alveolar stop *-t
  • PTB *voiceless stop finals have remained *voiceless stop or have become glottal stop *-ʔ in PK
  • PTB high back vowel *u > PK mid back vowel *o (vowel lowering)
  • PTB off-gliding rhyme *-iy > PK monophthong *-i
  • PTB off-gliding rhyme *-ey > PK monophthong *-e
  • PTB off-gliding rhymes *-ay and *-a:y > PK monophthong *-e
  • PTB off-gliding rhyme *-əy > PK off-gliding rhyme *-ej(ey)
  • PTB *prefix-stem and/or *-infix-stem > PK *CC-

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Karenic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  2. ^ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student's Handbook, Edinburgh
  3. ^ a b Graham Thurgood, Randy J. LaPolla (2003). The Sino-Tibetan Languages. Routledge. ISBN 0-7007-1129-5. 
  4. ^ "Burmese/Myanmar script and pronunciation". Omniglot.com. Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  5. ^ "The Sino-Tibetan Language Family". Berkeley.edu. Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  6. ^ a b Matisoff, James A. (1991). "Sino-Tibetan Linguistics: Present State and Future Prospects". Annual Review of Anthropology. Annual Reviews Inc. 20: 469–504. doi:10.1146/annurev.an.20.100191.002345. 
  7. ^ Manson, Ken (2011). "The subgrouping of Karen" (PDF). Southeast Asian Linguistics Society. Retrieved 2015-05-05. 
  8. ^ Shintani Tadahiko (2012). A handbook of comparative Brakaloungic languages. Tokyo: ILCAA.
  9. ^ Shintani Tadahiko. 2018. The Thaidai language. Linguistic survey of Tay cultural area (LSTCA) no. 116. Tokyo: Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa (ILCAA).
  10. ^ Shintani Tadahiko. 2017. The Gokhu language. Linguistic survey of Tay cultural area (LSTCA) no. 111. Tokyo: Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa (ILCAA).
  11. ^ Shintani Tadahiko. 2017. The Blimaw language. Linguistic survey of Tay cultural area (LSTCA) no. 112. Tokyo: Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa (ILCAA).
  12. ^ Shintani Tadahiko. 2016. The Nangki language. Linguistic survey of Tay cultural area (LSTCA) no. 109. Tokyo: Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa (ILCAA).
  13. ^ a b Shintani Tadahiko. 2015. The Kadaw language. Linguistic survey of Tay cultural area (LSTCA) no. 106. Tokyo: Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa (ILCAA).
  14. ^ a b Manson, Ken (2009). "Prolegomena to reconstructing Proto-Karen". La Trobe Working Papers in Linguistics. 12. 
  15. ^ Luangthongkum, Theraphan. 2014. Karenic As A Branch of Tibeto-Burman: More Evidence From Proto-Karen. Paper presented at the 24th Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society (SEALS 24), Yangon, Burma.
  • George van Driem (2001) Languages of the Himalayas: An Ethnolinguistic Handbook of the Greater Himalayan Region. Brill.

Further reading[edit]

Reconstructions

  • Jones, Robert B., Jr. 1961. Karen linguistic studies: Description, comparison, and texts. University of California Publications in Linguistics 25. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  • Luangthongkum, Theraphan. 2013. A view on Proto-Karen phonology and lexicon. Unpublished ms. contributed to STEDT.

Vocabulary lists

  • Shintani Tadahiko. 2014. The Zayein language. Linguistic survey of Tay cultural area (LSTCA) no. 102. Tokyo: Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa (ILCAA).
  • Shintani Tadahiko. 2015. The Kadaw language. Linguistic survey of Tay cultural area (LSTCA) no. 106. Tokyo: Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa (ILCAA).
  • Shintani Tadahiko. 2016. The Nangki language. Linguistic survey of Tay cultural area (LSTCA) no. 109. Tokyo: Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa (ILCAA).

External links[edit]