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Temporal Concepts and Formulations of Time in Tibeto-Burman Languages

Abstract : As a vast and diverse linguistic grouping, Tibeto-Burman languages vary in their usage of time constructs, both morphologically and semantically. Even between genetically related languages within the Tibeto-Burman language family, approaches to elements such as suffixation vary widely, while vocabulary from Indo-Aryan and distantly related Sinitic languages is differently incorporated and borrowed. In this article, we identify trends that only become apparent through the process of data collation and the careful comparison of numerous grammatical sketches and dictionaries. We further expand this rich, if understudied, area through the incorporation of original fieldwork data from the Thangmi/Thami-speaking communities of Nepal undertaken by one of the co-authors, and supplemented by the researcher's residence in the Himalayan region from 1996 to 2009. The literature review and linguistic scope of this survey includes multiple grammars of languages spoken across the Greater Himalayan region, with specific emphasis on the Rāī-Kiranti sub-branch of languages autochthonous to eastern Nepal. In our comparative analysis, we focus on apparent cognates and shared paradigms with an emphasis on systems of segmental time measurement (e.g. ̳two days hence,‘ ̳this year‘) rather than on relative ones (e.g. ̳now,‘ ̳then‘). Through this compilation, the relationship between Tibeto-Burman languages and their often-dominant regional Indo-Aryan counterparts becomes more visible, mediated by a better understanding of the shared yet conflicting epistemological, astrological, and organisational views of time held by the communities who speak Tibeto-Burman languages.
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Contributor : Mark Turin <>
Submitted on : Friday, January 22, 2021 - 2:17:18 AM
Last modification on : Monday, February 1, 2021 - 12:54:03 PM


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  • HAL Id : halshs-03083478, version 1



Mark Turin, Benjamin Chung. Temporal Concepts and Formulations of Time in Tibeto-Burman Languages. The Journal of Asian Linguistic Anthropology, 2020, 1 (1), pp.39-76. ⟨halshs-03083478⟩



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