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LINGUIST List 24.100

Wed Jan 09 2013

Diss: Dravidian/ Indo-Aryan/ Munda/ Tibeto-Burman/ Phonology/ Hindi/ Kalasha/ Kohistani, Indus/ Kumarbhag Paharia/ Mundari/ Pengo/ Punjabi/ Santali/ Sauria Paharia: Arsenault: 'Retroflex Consonant Harmony in South Asia'

Editor for this issue: Lili Xia <lxialinguistlist.org>

Date: 09-Jan-2013
From: Paul Arsenault <parsenaulttyndale.ca>
Subject: Retroflex Consonant Harmony in South Asia
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Institution: University of Toronto
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2012

Author: Paul Arsenault

Dissertation Title: Retroflex Consonant Harmony in South Asia

Dissertation URL: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/33911

Linguistic Field(s): Phonology

Subject Language(s): Hindi (hin)
                            Kalasha (kls)
                            Kohistani, Indus (mvy)
                            Kumarbhag Paharia (kmj)
                            Mundari (unr)
                            Pengo (peg)
                            Punjabi (pan)
                            Santali (sat)
                            Sauria Paharia (mjt)
Language Family(ies): Dravidian

Dissertation Director:
Keren D. Rice

Dissertation 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

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