Nasal Preinitials in Tangut Phonology

  • Xun Gong
Keywords: Tangut, vowel length, prenasalization, nasal preinitial, Burmo-Qiangic


Gong Hwang-cherng proposed that the Tangut language has a distinction between short and long vowels. To date, however, no reliable correlates have been found regarding the actual phonological nature of the distinction. A careful examination of Chinese loanwords in Tangut and Sino-Tangut pronunciation reveals that the “vowel length” distinction should be revised to that of the presence vs. absence of a nasal preinitial. The pair  “weed” vs. “tomb,” borrowed respectively from Chinese 蒲 bu and 墓 muH (the latter from a Northwest-type reflex with *mb-), hitherto reconstructed as buʶÅ {buÅ} vs. buʶ¹ {bu¹}, should be revised to buʶ¹  vs. mbuʶ².  The reconstructed nasal preinitial not only has a close typological parallel in Modern West Rgyalrongic, but is equally reflected in other sources of evidence, most strikingly Sanskrit transcription and fǎnqiè. The revision solves a large number of problems in the historical phonology of Tangut, though not without raising some new ones, especially in connection with the treatment of Proto-Rgyalrongic preinitials before nasals.


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How to Cite
Gong, X. (2022). Nasal Preinitials in Tangut Phonology. Archiv orientální, 89(3), 443-482.
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