Phonemic and tonal analysis of Yongning Na*

in Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale
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The Na language spoken in the village of Yongning, close to the border between Yunnan and Sichuan, has been classified as an Eastern Naxi dialect in the pioneering survey conducted by Chinese linguists. It is also referred to as 'Mosuo'. The phonemic and tonal analysis presented here on the basis of first-hand fieldwork aims to serve as a basis for linguistic documentation and research, from the accurate transcription of recorded materials to fine-grained synchronic and diachronic investigations. The ultimate aim is an in-depth understanding of Na, Naxi and other closely related language varieties, including an account of their historical relationships and their links with other Tibeto-Burman languages.

Phonemic and tonal analysis of Yongning Na*

in Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale


1 The present analyses are based on three field trips, in 2006, 2007 and 2008 (total time in Yongning: three months).The location chosen for fieldwork is a hamlet located in the Yongning plain proper. Its name in Na is, and its administrative coordinates are: Yunnan province, Lijiang municipality, Ningling Yi autonomous county, Yongning district, Pingjing village (zjpfe \^MtL tfi'Tfliil %i ÊI i'á ž!:7j( ? � iflfH1). It is close to the monastery of Yongning, called dgra med dgon pa in Tibetan, a name rendered in Chinese as Zhamfiisi 4L51-A.

2 The main language consultant is a woman who was born in 1950 and has lived in Yongning all her life. The data recorded include a word list of some 2,000 items, elicited sentences, and narratives (folk tales and stories about Yongning). The data were checked with one male speaker of the same generation. One female and one male speaker one generation younger - in their mid-thirties - also participated in the investigation.

3 The term "Yongning Na", used by Lidz 2006, appears to be a more adequate designation for the language than "Yongning Naxi" insofar as the autonym used by the speakers is simply "Na" (lem na/), unlike the autonym used in and around the city of Lijiang: any Mhil, where /Mhi/ means 'human being'. Other designations of this language include "Eastern dialect of Naxi, Yongning variety", and "Yongning variety of the Mosuo language". "Mosuo" (IP ft m6su6), which has several alternative transcriptions in Chinese characters ("�, ffi-ty, 1fJ£�, &'�, *�...), ), is a name formerly used in the Chinese records. Chavannes 1912:132 cites Chinese chronicles as indicating that the Mo-so tribe was formed during the Nanzhao period out of two distinct elements, the Mo and the So. This name was officially replaced after 1949 by "Naxi" (MP4 naxi). Thus, the dictionary of pictograms originally published by Li Lincan ^5KWl, Zhang Kun •}£$& and He Cai �II7J� as Dictionary of Mo-So Hieroglyphics [Hong Kong, 1953], 1f��O��*'¥A, was reprinted in 2001 on the mainland under the title Dictionary of Nari pictograms, �1 �?�?��'7'�; all occurrences of Olt-4 within the book were replaced by �1 Today, the term "Mosuo" has been revived to refer to the Na of the Yongning area: since the 1990s, the "Mosuo" are recognised (at the provincial level) as a separate subgroup within the Naxi nationality.

4 Tone is indicated in superscript to the left of the syllable in Western Naxi, where tone is syllabic, and to the left of the entire word in Yongning Na The dot (.) in Yongning Na data represents syllable boundaries. About the tonal system, see section 4, where explanations are provided about how tones unfold over a polysyllabic word 5 No tone is indicated for this verb because, unlike other verbs (section 4.1), its tone is determined by that of its subject: /"" bi/ *snow'>[bH gii] 'it snows', /Lm hi/ 'rain'>[hiJ giA] 'it rains'. This verb thus appears to have become grammaticalised; 'to rain', 'to snow' behave as units, not as subject+verb combinations.

6 The diacritic indicating syllabic status is placed over the M, not underneath it, for the sake of clarity.

' Liberty Lidz's inventory of phonemes actually includes a voiced uvular stop, /G/. This phonemic unit is not present in the dialect studied here: the word for 'god, spirit', which has a 101 initial in L. Lidz's data (from the village of Luoshu3 fiJj(), is / in the data reported here (village ofPíngjing -O/¡ff!).

8 The Naxi word for 'man' is transcribed as [«H] in Chinese publications (e.g. He and Jiang, op. cit., p. 21). The place of articulation of the fricative is in fact palatal rather than alveolo-palatal (less fronted than, e.g., Standard Mandarin [1;)), hence its transcription as [9] by Michailovsky el at. (2006), who analyse it phonemically as an allophone of /h/. For a detailed analysis of /h/-initial syllables in Naxi, see Michaud (2006).

9 Over three syllables, /ML/ yields [M.L.L] by left-to-right, one-to-one association of tonal levels to syllables, followed by the application of a basic rule of Yongning Na tonal phonology: within a phonological phrase, a tonal level cannot be surrounded by higher tonal levels. This rule prohibits MLM sequences: given the association of M to the first syllable of a three-syllable domain, and of L to the second, the third syllable can only receive L.

10 codes are assigned successively to all the language consultants who participate in fieldwork; this is intended to facilitate reference to the recorded data.

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