Description of Chakma Phonology:
The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, India
Susanta BARDHAN, Burdwan University, India.
The paper aims at describing the phonology of Chakma, a Tibeto-Burman language spoken by indigeneous
communities scattered over a large area in the North-Eastern part of India such as the south western part of
Mizoram, northern and southern districts of Tripura, Tirap, Changlang, Subanauri, and Lohit districts of
Arunachal Pradesh, Karby-Anglalong district of Assam, Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh and eastern
part of Myanmar. We describe the language spoken by the people living in south-western part of Mizoram
primarily because the data was collected from this area and also because the local government is now
taking an interest in preserving and developing the language with the formation of a Chakma Autonomous
District Council (CADC).
The paper examines in detail the bimoraic, word minimality constraint operating in Chakma. Like
Assamese and other north eastern languages, Chakma does not have any phonemic vowel length. Vowels
are long in monosyllabic, non-derived words with open syllables, creating sequences such as CVV
(e.g. /ha/→ [haa] ‘eat’; /lΘ/→ [lΘΘ] ‘take’). These roots lose their vowel length when they occur in derived
monosyllabic (cvc) and disyllabic (cv.cv) sequences (e. g. [hΘΘ] → [hΘŋ] ‘play, 1 st sing’; [Σaa] → [Σaib]
‘look, fut.’). In addition there are instances of compensatory lengthening and harmony (both regressive and
progressive) which prove that Chakma conforms to a bimoraic, word minimality constraint. In other words,
a minimal word in Chakma must have two moras. The analysis is done within the framework of generative
phonology using the theory of autosegmental phonology (for harmony processes) and metrical phonology.
16th HIMALAYAN LANGUAGES SYMPOSIUM
Wednesday 1 – Sunday 5 September 2010
School of African and Oriental Studies, University of London