A grammar of Dzongkha (dzo): phonology, words, and simple clauses
Watters, Stephen A
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation is a description of phonetics, phonology, and word and clause-level morphosyntax of Dzongkha (dzo), a Southern Tibetic language within the Central Bodish branch of Tibeto-Burman. Dzongkha is spoken as a native language by about 160,000 speakers in Bhutan. The dissertation draws primarily on conversation data, and makes use of elicited and monologic data as noted in specific examples. The dissertation begins with an overview of the language situation of Dzongkha and its speech community, then turns to an overview of the phonetics and phonology of Dzongkha, followed by chapters on select aspects of morphosyntax. Dzongkha has incipient tonal characteristics with contrastive pitch only on words with certain onset series. Pitch effects are also evident as a result of vowel length, and these effects are assimilated across disyllabic words, giving evidence of pitch as an independent phonological contrast within the language. Dzongkha has two limited noun classification systems. One class marks gender on a small subset of human nouns, and the other class categorizes a closed set of words for purposes of honorifics. Verbs are typed on three basic event schemas that profile agents, themes, and locations, and can be further differentiated on the basis of whether theme or location receives prominence. There is no lexical class adjective. Rather, property concepts are lexicalized with descriptive nouns and verbs and various constructions with expressives. Dzongkha has an abundance of copular and existential verbs that in addition to clausal function also code egophoric, endophoric, and exophoric evidential distinctions. These verbs may also combine with one another extending the evidential distinctions to such categories as inference and speculation. The copulas and existentials function periphrastically in the tense aspect system where they also serve as evidential markers. Case marking in Dzongkha is shown to be probabalistically dependent on and functionally motivated by genre. In constructed examples, Dzongkha exhibits a split-ergative case system, but in conversation takes pragmatic marking, suggestive of speaker perspective. Tense, aspect, and evidentiality are coded by a complex system of suffixes, auxiliaries, and post-verbal enclitics each of which take evidential values in addition to temporal contrasts.