Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Stephen A. Marlett


This thesis is a comparative reconstruction of the tones and initial consonants of Proto-Central Karen based on the languages Eastern Kayah, Western Kayah, Geba, and Padaung. Other Karen languages are referred to but not studied to the same detail.

The study focuses on the great tone split that affected nearly all the languages of Southeast Asia, including Central Karen. I show that an understanding of the great tone split is crucial if one is to discover the phonological characteristics of Proto-Central Karen syllable-initial consonants.

In agreement with Haudricourt's (1946) analysis of Proto-Karen, I conclude that Proto-Central Karen had three proto-tones and a series of voiceless sonorants, and was affected by a great tone split in which the sets of voiced and voiceless consonants merged and the three proto-tones split. These are different conclusions than those drawn by two other major reconstructions of Proto-Karen, Jones (1961) and Burling (1969).

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