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Theoretical issues in Nuu-Chah-Nulth phonology and morphology Kim, Ŭn-suk

Abstract

The goals of the dissertation are documentation and description of the language, and investigation of theoretical issues raised by the language data. Nuu-chah-nulth, which constitutes, along with Ditidaht and Makah, the Southern branch of the Wakashan family, is in immediate danger of extinction. There are many factors contributing to endangerment, but above all, there is an enormous generation-gap between people who can speak the language and people who cannot, which may ultimately be too deep and broad to bridge without significant linguistic or educational measures. The problem is compounded by the fact the there is very little documentation of the language, hampering both linguistic research and efforts in the realm of education/revitalisation of the language. This work will contribute to documentation of Nuu-chah-nulth, which will ultimately help Nuu-chah-nulth people to develop education materials for their children. Although previous studies describe and analyse Tseshaht and Kyuquot, two of the 12 Nuu-chah-nulth dialects, there is not much comprehensive work where both the Nuu-chah-nulth sound system and related phonological phenomena and its morphology, are both well-described and analysed. Nuu-chah-nulth has unique and interesting dialect variation as well as linguistic phenomena which require organisation and generalisation. This thesis focuses on the description of the Ahousaht dialect. The documentation, in conjunction with previous work, will help us understand Nuu-chah-nulth better in terms of the different evolution between dialects as well as both linguistic and typological characteristics of the language. It is important to investigate the phonology and morphology of Nuu-chah-nulth from the perspective of linguistic theory. Many phonological and morphological processes in Nuu-chah-nulth raise interesting questions in terms of universality, markedness, learnability, variability, and typological issues. Theoretical treatments of linguistic phenomena will help us understand the language itself better, and general characteristics of human language as well. I discuss the segmental phonology of the language in Chapter 3, including the treatment of pervasive phonological processes such as glottalisation, lenition, (de)labialisation, vowel lengthening, vowel shortening, and vowel alternation due to variable vowels; I treat prosodic phonology in Chapter 4, the morphological structure of words in Chapter 2, and morphological processes such as reduplication and allomorphy in Chapter 5. I treat these phenomena within Optimality Theory, due to its direct encoding of claims concerning universality, language variation, and typology.

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