The synchronic and diachronic phonology of Va
A Wa-Lawa language of Yunnan
Va, an obscure language of Southwestern Yunnan, belongs to the Wa-Lawa cluster under the Waic subgroup of Palaungic in the Austroasiatic language family. This article presents an overview of Va synchronic phonology and an account of its evolution from the Proto-Wa-Lawa sound system reconstructed by Gérard Diffloth. Modern Va phonology is characterized by fully monosyllabic word structure, reduced syllable canon, and a robust three-tone system. Its atypical phonological profile from an Austroasiatic perspective and its tonogenesis may be directly attributed to the sociolinguistic ambience of the Va-speaking areas. The phonological innovations discussed herein, including onset-driven tone splitting rules and coda-driven vowel splitting rules, will help determine the language’s distinct status within the Wa-Lawa language cluster.
Keywords: Austroasiatic family, Palaungic branch, Wa language cluster, synchronic phonology, tonogenesis, contact-induced sound change
Published online: 01 February 2019
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