This article presents a first sketch of Kri, a Vietic (Austroasiatic) language spoken in upland Laos. This previously undescribed language is of special interest not only in so far as it adds to the typological sample of the world's languages, but also in so far as its complex phonological system adds to our understanding of the historical development of Vietic and Austroasiatic, and more generally to the process of tonogenesis. Kri syllables are defined both in terms of segments and segmental slots, as well as in terms of register ('heavy' versus 'light') and what we call 'terminance' (voiced, voiceless, checked). Register and terminance have this in common with tone that they all involve laryngeal features. The description also contains a sketch of the main morphosyntactic features of the language.
1 The data discussed here were collected in four field expeditions carried out by Enfield to Kri-speaking villages of the upper Nrong valley in 2004-6: first, a brief introductory visit in May 2004; second, five weeks in summer 2004; third, a month in upper Nrong plus a further week with Kri speakers in Nakai District centre, in summer of 2005; and fourth, a month in upper Wrong in summer 2006. Both authors collaborated in analysis of audio-recorded data collected in 2004-2005, and in addition, both authors spent a week working together with Kri speakers in Nakai, upland central Laos, in August 2006. We gratefully acknowledge the input of audiences at Siem Reap (2006), Nijmegen (2007), and Leipzig (2007), and helpful comments from those who read drafts, including Frans Plank and Larry Hyman, as well as a number of anonymous reviewers. Errors of fact or interpretation remain our responsibility. We thank the Max Planck Society and especially Steve Levinson for support of this work.
z Ethnologue.com has no entry for Kri, but it may correspond to the language listed as Arem (although the information supplied differs in some ways from that given here).
3 Following work on other Southeast Asian languages, we regard a distinction between onset and rime as the main distinction in the Kri syllable. Sino-Tibetan, Tai, and Hmong-Mien linguistics have all done this traditionally. 4Words with more than two syllables occur, but are very rare. An example is the word for one's great-great-grandchild: celcrvec. As in other Kri words, the final syllable receives full stress. 5 These are not always true clusters in phonetic terms, due to the insertion of a predictable epenthetic vowel in many CC sequences (e.g., /kt-/ [k*t-I CC- vs. leat-/ [kat-] CvC-). See section on phonotactics, below.
6 Note: r/4 and j/j represent freely varying allophones. 7 Throughout this article, for convenience of presentation, we give simplified glosses of the meaning of example words. Often, the lexical meanings are more specific than we supply here. The authors may be contacted for more information.
8 See footnote 19.
9 By lexicaltypefrequency of a phonological element, we mean its frequency of occurrence across entries in the lexicon, independent of its discoursetokenfrequency,i.e., how often it occurs in discourse. (The distinction can make a world of difference - witness English /6/, with low lexical type frequency, but very high discourse token frequency, thanks to the extremely common occurrence of a small set of words including the,this,that,there,then.) 10 We do not list the retroflex initials here, since they do not pattern as a set with the other initial stops - the two retroflex initials have very low type frequency, occurring only about 10 times each in our lexicon of 2778 words.
1 In utterance-final position, final stops are often pronounced with a kind of delayed voiceless aspiration (e.g., [siit'th] as a variant of [siit'] for 'animal'). This is not lexically contrastive, but is some kind of stylistic practice whose meaning is not yet clear.
12 This is a solution currently adopted in Vietic historical reconstruction (Ferlus 1998).
n The term 'sesquisyllabic' was introduced by Jim Matisoff for the description of a common type of word structure in languages of mainland Southeast Asia. We do not use the term here, because we want to avoid any confusion resulting from the subsequent inconsistent application of the term to (at least) two quite distinct kinds of situation in which a word can be said to begin with a so-called half syllable: 1. where the 'half syllable' is not phonologically a syllable at all, but is the phonetic result of an epenthetic vowel appearing in an initial cluster; and 2. where the 'half syllable' is phonologically a syllable that shows significant phonotactic constraints compared to what we call the major syllable. Moreover, we want to avoid the term's unfortunate suggestion of the existence of 'half syllables' in a domain where units are abstract and discrete, not measurable on a linear scale of halves or thirds. �'° With stop final, short=224, long=400; with nasal, rhotic, glide finals (not -V), short=444, long=980; i.e., 668 short versus 1380 instances of long vowels where contrast is possible.
15 it is also worth noting that while the register distinction is a significant one, in fact the difference is auditorily very subtle, and it took us a long time to learn to hear the distinction clearly. Hearing the difference is a kind of knack, similar to the case of tones.
16 The arguments presented in sections 2.3.2 and 2.3.3 support the view that register is a property of the rime alone.
17 For convenience here, we use lower case letters for the C-1V-1 of the minor syllable.
woe know that l��q 'take' is obligatory here simply because native speakers reject the sentence without it. However, we do not yet have any form of explanation for this, i.e., in terms of syntactic or semantic analysis. Here we merely report the fact of its unacceptability if omitted.
zo We use the term 'echo' here in the standard sense (see the definition of "echo- words" in the "Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics" P.H. Matthews 1997:109), and thus do not define it explicitly here. These are not reduplicatives, but involve the addition of dedicated 'second elements' that serve to elaborate on more everyday words (e.g. 'chattels' in 'goods and chattels'). Here, they tend to share at least a small amount of phonological material, at least the first consonant.
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