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LINGUIST List 19.2575

Thu Aug 21 2008

Diss: Historical Ling: Tai: 'A Study of Tibetan Phonological ...'

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        1.    Chung-pui Tai, A Study of Tibetan Phonological Transcription

Message 1: A Study of Tibetan Phonological Transcription
Date: 19-Aug-2008
From: Chung-pui Tai <chungpuigmail.com>
Subject: A Study of Tibetan Phonological Transcription
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Institution: Chinese Academy of Social Science
Program: Ph.D.
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2008

Author: Chung-pui Tai

Dissertation Title: A Study of Tibetan Phonological Transcription

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics

Subject Language(s): Tibetan (bod)
Tangut (txg)
Classical Tibetan (xct)

Dissertation Director(s):
Hong-yin Nie

Dissertation Abstract:

This thesis investigates 20 Tangut fragments with phonological transcription in
Tibetan which have been preserved in the Russian and British collections. First
all Tangut characters and their Tibetan transcription are identified, followed
by a rearrangement of them in the form of a manual. After that the phonological
representation of Tibetan transcription is to be studied by a systematic
comparison between Chinese transcriptions, Sanskrit transcriptions and the basic
scripts, prescripts, superscripts, subscripts, postscripts and vowel symbols of
Tibetan transcriptions. Such a comparison will give light to the phonological
features of the Tibetan language in the 12th century. Finally the Tibetan
transcription will be arranged by initial and rhyme categories of their
corresponding Tangut characters. It contributes to the examination of the
previous reconstruction schemes of Tangut phonology. Several suggestions are
made on the modification of the reconstruction scheme.

This thesis classifies the Tibetan transcriptions into six types of handwriting,
according to the origin of fragments, the content of fragments, and the writing
style of Tibetan transcriptions. These handwritings are labeled from A to F. It
demonstrates that, for the first time, the practice of transcription varied
among different handwritings. It also points out that the inconsistency of
transcription formats noticed by previous scholars are in fact due to different
transcription practices among different handwritings, as manifested in the use
of prescripts. Apart from that, this thesis gives a preliminary study on the
content of the fragments.

In the analysis of phonological representation of the Tibetan transcription, it
is found that the sound value of basic scripts remained the feature of Old
Tibetan, that the voiced obstructs have not yet devoiced. The examination on
prescripts gives further evidence to the observation made by Nie (1986) and
Arakawa (1999). When prescripts g and d are combined with nasal basic scripts,
they can change the syllable tone to the one corresponding to the level tone in
Tangut. In the Tibetan transcription the prescript b marks the roundness of the
syllable. Subscript w basically only appears in handwriting A, which also marks
the roundness of the syllable. The phonological features as reflected by the
Tibetan transcription suggest that the language of transcribers was a dialect in
the stage between the Old Tibetan and the modern Kham dialect. Tones had already
appeared, while the pronunciation of prescripts g and d had been weakened. Their
sound values had lost when preceding nasal initials, leaving behind the function
of distinguishing tones. However the feature was still preserved as a weak
glottal stop in front of other consonants, as a result the corresponding parts
can change the sound value of many non-nasal basic scripts to mark special
consonants in Tangut. The sound of prescript b had shifted from a pre-initial to
a co-articulated position, which marked the final stage before its disappearance.

By examining previous reconstruction schemes of Tangut phonology, it is evident
from the Tibetan transcription that an ld- initial should be separated from the
l- initial. Besides it points out that there are regular use of prescripts in
front of voiced obstruents, suggesting that there should be a pre-initial
consonant, which is probably a weak nasal or glottal sound.

Lastly, this thesis edited all the Tibetan transcriptions with Tangut characters
into a manual, which included 524 Tangut characters in total. The manual also
provides the information of initial and rhyme category of each Tangut character,
together with their corresponding transcriptions in Tibetan, Chinese and
Sanskrit. This manual provides the most detailed information ever on the Tibetan
transcription of Tangut characters.
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