Horsing around: The Complicated State of Tangsa-Nocte *aŋ Rhymes


Aspects of historical reconstruction of Tangsa-Nocte varieties


In reconstructing Proto-Tangsa-Nocte – a cluster of language varieties within the Northern Naga branch of Tibeto-Burman – a dilemma arises regarding two distinct *aŋ rhymes, for which modern reflexes show an opposition in development patterns from one variety to another. In such cases, for one language variety, one of the two rhymes is con- servative and the other highly innovative, but in a closely related variety, reflexes of the first rhyme is innovative while the latter is conservative, indicating parallel development occurring at some time after a split from the common proto-language. At first glance there is no immediately obvious distinction between the two rhymes in terms of features such as glides, vowel quality or differences in phonation which might condition these changes relative to differences in phonemic inventories of the varieties. This paper discusses the development of these two rhymes – hereafter referred to as *aŋI and *aŋII – and makes the case for an origin from a single *aŋ rhyme which split some time in the recent past. This single reconstruction of *aŋ is based on comparisons of multiple Tangsa-Nocte varieties, along with consideration of likely early loans from neighbouring language varieties.