Thesis Open Access

Verb stem alternation in Sizang Chin narrative discourse

Davis, Tyler D.

Thesis supervisor(s)

Phillips, Audra E.; Bedell, George D.

Sizang Chin (Northern Kuki-Chin, Tibeto-Burman) is spoken in Northern Chin State, Burma/Myanmar. It exhibits a form of ablaut commonly referred to as “verb stem alternation” within the Kuki-Chin literature. In verb stem alternation, one form of a verb (Stem I) occurs in certain environments and a secondary form (Stem II) occurs in other environments. Recently, this alternation has been classified as a correlation of agentivity, with Stem I denoting agentive voice and Stem II denoting nonagentive voice. However, the methodology used in that classification depended heavily upon elicited data and the categorization did not make a clear distinction between clausal-level phenomena and argument-level phenomena.

In order to observe verb stem alternation in a more natural environment, this study examines the correlation of verb stem alternation with foreground and background information in Sizang third-person narrative discourse. Foreground information refers to the clauses within a narrative that contain main events which advance the timeline. Background information refers to clauses that are not mainline events, but nonetheless add supporting information to the mainline events. The hypothesis for this study was that foreground information clauses would correlate with Stem I and background information clauses would correlate with Stem II. However, contrary to the hypothesis, the results demonstrate that the majority of background information clauses contain a Stem I verb and foreground information clauses sometimes contain Stem II verbs. This is because Stem II in Sizang Chin to indicates nominalization. Therefore, in both foreground and background information, Stem II is present in nominalized clauses, including adverbial clauses, complement clauses and applicative constructions.

© Tyler David Davis, 2017
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