Application of the comparative method to vocoid sequences in Nivkh


  • Robert Halm



Nivkh language -- Phonology


The Nivkh language family of Sakhalin Island and the adjacent mainland in Northeast Asia is generally considered to be without known external relatives. Since its internal diversity is relatively shallow – leading some authors to treat it as a single ‘language’ divisible only into ‘dialect’-level varieties – comparative linguistics internal to the family has been neglected. The internal diversity of Nivkh is not, however, as trivial as has been portrayed, and involves at least two (Gruzdeva, 1998) and possibly three Fortescue (2016) mutually unintelligible varieties, indicating fertile ground for the application of the Standard Comparative Method within the family. In the present paper, the correspondences of vocoid sequences among six attested varieties are examined, allowing an important sound change affecting one major variety group (Proto-Nivkh /*a, *i, *u/ > Amur Nivkh, West Sakhalin Nivkh, and North Sakhalin Nivkh /@/ when followed by a glide) to be reconstructed, as well as the applicable environment for this change to be precisely circumscribed, and furthermore allowing for an important phonological contrast for the proto-language to be reconstructed which is not well documented in the living varieties; namely, a contrast between sequences of vowel-glide and similar diphthongs, /*aw, *iw, *aj, *uj/ ̸= /*au, *iu, *ai, *ui/. Keywords: Nivkh, Gilyak, comparative method, Proto-Nivkh


How to Cite

Halm, . R. (2017). Application of the comparative method to vocoid sequences in Nivkh. Kansas Working Papers in Linguistics, 38, 12–22.