Date of Award

January 2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Linguistics

First Advisor

J. Albert Bickford

Abstract

This thesis provides a consonantal comparison of the Burmese, Rakhine and Marma languages of Myanmar and Bangladesh, with primary focus on initial and medial consonants. Its main purposes are to provide new data from the Rakhine and Marma languages of Bangladesh and to make some initial observations about the historical relationship between the three languages based on compiled consonant correspondences.

Although much literature is available on the Burmese language as the primary representative of the Southern Burmish languages, little information is available on Rakhine and Marma. This thesis thus extends previous work on the family tree to these two close relatives. It compares new Rakhine and Marma wordlist data from Bangladesh to previously-collected Burmese and Rakhine data from Myanmar. It identifies cognate forms and regular sound correspondences, as well as exceptions, with reference to previously documented Burmese sound changes.

Marma is more conservative than Burmese or Rakhine in retaining the pronunciation indicated by Written Burmese orthography; in some cases, this is a direct reflex of reconstructed Proto-Tibeto-Burman. Burmese and Rakhine share innovations that are not found in Marma. These may indicate that modern Burmese and Rakhine are a subgroup of the branch containing Marma, although some similarities of Rakhine and Burmese may instead be due to geographic and sociolinguistic factors, or borrowings from Burmese into Rakhine. The Rakhine variety of Bangladesh differs somewhat from the Rakhine of Myanmar, which bears a few more superficial similarities to Spoken Burmese.

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