Predication, reference and modification

Major word classes in Bumthang, a Tibeto-Burman language

Image credit: Christopher J. Fynn


In this thesis, I investigate the word class system in Bumthang, a Tibeto-Burman language from central Bhutan. Word classes form a fundamental part of basic linguistic analysis, as tasks like writing phrase structure rules or positing derivational affixes require assumptions about how words in a language are organised. Recent work on word classes has been typologically orientated, with discussion surrounding crosslinguistic comparison and organisation of word class systems found worldwide. As such, my thesis will give insights into the structure of word class systems in the Himalayas and how they work. Using morphosyntactic distribution, I find that there is evidence for common crosslinguistic word classes such as nouns, verbs and adjectives in Bumthang. However, while verbs are easily definable morphologically at the word level, nouns are instead defined syntactically at the phrase level. Furthermore, adjectives are clearly derived from verbs but are more nominal in their distribution. All three classes can be further divided into subclasses, which have restricted morphosyntactic distribution. The status of the three major word classes in Bumthang allows us to uncover language-internal regularities and compare cross-linguistic coding strategies.

Australian National University
Naomi Peck
Naomi Peck
PhD Student; Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin

PhD linguist who is interested in how units are formed, wherever they are found in language.