Second person verb forms in Tibeto-Burman

Scott DeLancey

University of Oregon

Since the beginning of research on PTB verb agreement, 2nd person marking has posed a persistent problem. Every scholar from Bauman on reconstructs a set of person/number suffixes including 2sg #-n(a). But all have also noted strongly resemblant 2nd person forms in t-. The most obvious comparanda are prefixes in rGyalrong and Southern Central Kiranti. But other resemblant forms include postverbal particles (Northern Chin te?) and a floating enclitic (Chepang te?), which cannot be directly compared to the prefixes. Recent research (DeLancey 2011, 2012, Jacques 2012) has resolved the syntagmatic contradictions and established the reconstruction of a 2nd person #t- prefix. Although a number of languages in several branches have innovated other agreement prefixes, there is no evidence for any person agreement prefixes at the PTB level other than #t-.

In this talk I will review the primary and secondary evidence for #t-, and show that we must reconstruct distinct #t- and #-n 2nd person forms rather than a single doubly-inflected form. Finally I will suggest a sociolinguistic motivation for the existence of competing 2nd person forms in the proto-language. As possible parallels in innovative 2nd person indexation we will briefly look at the complex formation of 2nd person verb forms in Kuki-Chin, and the anomalous ‑o ~ -u 2nd person indices in the Nocte-Tangsa languages, which otherwise preserve the basic PTB person-number paradigm.

DeLancey, Scott. 2011. Notes on verb agreement prefixes in Tibeto-Burman. Himalayan Linguistics 10.1: 1-29.

_____. 2013. The history of postverbal agreement in Kuki-Chin. Journal of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society 6: 1-17.

Jacques, Guillaume. 2012. Agreement morphology: the case of Rgyalrong and Kiranti. Language and Linguistics 13.1:83-116.