Date of Award

January 2022

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Linguistics

First Advisor

John M. Clifton

Abstract

Li Xei is an understudied North Bahnaric language spoken in the province of Quảng Nam in central Vietnam. Li Xei speakers are officially considered members of the Giẻ Triêng ethnic group (also written Jeh Trieng), although Li Xei's exact position within the North Bahnaric branch is unknown. This thesis analyzes 1,591 audio recordings of two native speakers of Li Xei, consisting of single words and multiple-word compounds, to describe its phonemic inventory. In addition, Li Xei reflexes are compared to 774 Proto North Bahnaric reconstructions from Sidwell (2011) to provide a basic description of the most significant sound changes from Proto North Bahnaric.

Li Xei's phonemic inventory includes several typologically unusual features, including three voiceless series of stops (unaspirated, slightly aspirated, and fully aspirated), the front rounded /œ/, and the post-vocalic /ɛ/. Slightly aspirated voiceless stops have developed from Proto North Bahnaric voiced stops, which has led to the development of other phonetic features consistent with registrogenesis, although register is not yet phonemic in Li Xei. The distribution of the non-high, post-vocalic /ɛ/, realized as the off-glide [ɛ̯], closely matches that of Li Xei's other off-glides [i̯ u̯] and has developed from the loss of certain final consonants of Proto North Bahnaric.

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