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This here thing: Specifying Morphemes an3, nai1, and mai2 in Tai Khamti Reference-point Constructions Open Access


Other title
cognitive reference point
Cognitive Grammar
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Inglis, Douglas
Supervisor and department
Rice, Sally (Linguistics)
Examining committee member and department
Newman, John (Linguistics)
Forth, Gregory (Anthropology)
Arppe, Antti (Linguistics)
Department of Linguistics

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
There are three facets to this dissertation—a descriptive analysis of the minority language Tai Khamti, a grammaticalization account of three basic morphemes in the language, and a theoretical account of how the three morphemes, and their extensions, are motivated by a conceptual reference-point schema. The Tai Khamti language has approximately 15,000 speakers and is spread across northern Myanmar and northeast India. A linguistic description of their language is a priority as the people work together for education and development for the next generation. The descriptive analysis in this dissertation is a portion of an overall language development project for Khamti, initiated in 2005. As a portion of this description, the target morphemes an3 ‘thing’, nai1 ‘this’, and mai2 ‘here’ are basic morphemes that extend in grammatical function to over 35 constructions in the nominal system. The constructions feature a nominal juxtaposition between a head noun and what I analyze as a conoun: [noun][conoun]. The noun is a bare head noun and the conoun is comprised of one of the target morphemes. The basic grammaticalization pathways observed in the analysis are well-recognized constructions in the literature, with several Khamti-specific extensions. In a reference grammar, these constructions would be described under discrete section headings, but to do this here would result in the loss of a helpful generalization. All of the extensions form reference-point constructions, which impose an embedded, relational structure, [noun [conoun]], on the juxtaposition template. In this asymmetrical conceptual relationship, the head noun is construed as a reference point and the conoun is construed as an embedded target. Moreover, the three morphemes an3, nai1, and mai2, as part of the target, are realized at a conceptual level as specifiers. These three specifiers identify the target entity and point to a reference head noun, resulting in a coherent composite conception. Because all of the grammaticalized constructions are also analyzed as conceptual reference-point constructions, I posit the overarching reference-point schema as a single motivation which forms the underpinning of the grammaticalization processes involved. The reference-point analysis assumes a cognitive linguistic framework with a symbolic basis to grammar. More specifically, the theoretical notion of Cognitive Reference Point, first introduced in Cognitive Grammar and expanded upon in a variety of subsequent studies, is used for the Tai Khamti reference-point analysis.
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