|Title:||The Phonology and Morphology of the Tanacross Athabaskan Language||Add Dissertation|
|Author:||Gary Holton||Update Dissertation|
|Email:||click here to access email|
|Institution:||University of California, Santa Barbara, Linguistics Department|
|Linguistic Subfield(s):||Morphology; Phonology;|
|Abstract:||This dissertation presents a linguistic description of the phonology and morphology of Tanacross Athabaskan, an endangered language spoken by approximately sixty persons in eastern interior Alaska. There is little extant documentation of Tanacross; hence, this description is based primarily on data gathered from first-hand field work.
Tanacross is typical of the Athabaskan family in its typological characteristics. There is a relatively small phonemic inventory, and most of the phonemic contrasts are neutralized outside the stem-syllable onset position. The lexicon is relatively small, consisting of perhaps six thousand distinct morphemes. Noun morphology is relatively straightforward, with few active morphological processes. In contrast, verb structure is extremely complex, consisting of a possibly discontinuous root morpheme together with a string of inflectional and derivational affixes which combine via an elaborate system of non-concatenative templatic morphology. The verb word may stand alone as entire utterance. Members of other minor word classes tend to be monomorphemic.
Tanacross exhibits several unique properties which distinguish it from neighboring Athabaskan languages and invite further study. Tanacross is unique among the Alaska Athabaskan languages in having high tone as the reflex of Proto-Athabaskan constriction. In addition, more than any other tonal language in Alaska Tanacross has preserved segmental information lost via apocope through an elaborate system of compound tone. Tanacross also has many unique phonetic features, including the loss of suffix vowels and the devoicing of stem-initial fricatives. Tanacross morphology reflects its transitional status between the (historically) conservative languages of the lower Tanana river and the innovative languages of the Tanana and Yukon uplands.