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The Phonetics and Phonology of Nyagrong Minyag, an Endangered Language of Western China.

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Title:The Phonetics and Phonology of Nyagrong Minyag, an Endangered Language of Western China.
Authors:Van Way, John
Contributors:Linguistics (department)
Date Issued:May 2018
Publisher:University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Abstract:Nyagrong Minyag (Sino-Tibetan, Tibeto-Burman, Qiangic, Rgyalrongic, Horpic) is an under-documented
language spoken by approximately 1,000 ethnically Tibetan people in Xinlong (Nyagrong) County,
Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province, China. The language is endangered not
only from common factors such as decreasing intergenerational transmission and shrinking domains
of use, but also from the likely relocation of speakers to make way for building hydroelectric dams on
the Yalong River. This dissertation is part of a larger project to document and preserve the language
in its cultural context, in partnership with members of the language community.
This study aims to describe the sound system of Nyagrong Minyag, with particular attention
to phonetic detail. Like other closely related languages, Nyagrong Minyag has a large inventory of
sounds. It is comprised of twelve vowels and 42 consonants, which can cluster together in unexpected
ways. In addition to auditory and phonemic analysis, this dissertation incorporates articulatory and
acoustic data to describe and analyze the sounds in this language.
These methods have revealed several details about this language’s system of sounds. First, through
static palatography, tongue gestures are shown to distinguish the three places of articulation for affricates
and account for variation in some consonant clusters. Second, I find that Nyagrong Minyag’s
aspirated fricatives are acoustically characterized by a drop in spectral center of gravity through the
fricative and a drop in pitch in the vowel that follows. Aspirated fricatives are typologically rare,
and these acoustic investigations contribute to the understanding of this phenomenon. Finally, I
find phonemic and acoustic evidence for uvular approximation as a secondary articulation on vowels.
Compared with plain, non-uvularized vowels, uvularized vowels are characterized by a drop in F2
and an increase in F3-F2, both of which correlate with vowel backness. Like Evans et al. (2016), I
argue for the International Phonetic Alphabet to recognize uvular approximation in their catalogue
of secondary articulations, and for reports of velarized vowels in other Rgyalrongic languages to be
Description:Ph.D. Thesis. University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa 2018.
Rights:All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections: Ph.D. - Linguistics

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