Desegmentalization: towards a common framework for the modeling of tonogenesis and registrogenesis in mainland Southeast Asia with case studies from Austroasiatic
Suprasegmental contrasts of tone and register are commonplace phonological phenomena among the languages of Mainland Southeast Asia and its periphery (MSEA) (Matisoff 1990, 2001). Insofar as we have come to understand the origins and evolution of such contrasts, two theories predominate: tonogenesis (Haudricourt 1954) and registrogenesis (Huffman 1976). In their classical forms, tonogenesis and registrogenesis are well suited for modeling the development of tone and register in the best known, most studied languages of MSEA, but there is much additional complexity that they fail to capture. This is especially true for languages of Austroasiatic stock, which in many cases have developed tone and register in ways that must be considered ‘unorthodox’ with respect to the received models (Ferlus 1979, 2004, 2011; Diffloth 1982a, 1982b; Svantesson 1989; Gehrmann 2015; Sidwell 2015, 2019). The goal of this thesis is to present a possible way forward towards a unified conceptual framework for tone and register evolution in the languages of MSEA: desegmentalization. Expanding on Dockum’s (2019) concept of desegmental phonology, desegmentalization is the process by which one or more segmental properties (onset phonation, vowel height, vowel length or coda phonation) condition changes in the distribution of a language’s suprasegmental contrasts. A general survey of the Austroasiatic language family is presented, in which documented examples of desegmentalization are presented and discussed. Austroasiatic constitutes a useful laboratory for such a survey, because the identification of the segmental origins of suprasegmental contrasts in Austroasiatic languages is relatively straightforward in comparison to the other language families of MSEA. Based on this survey of desegmentalization processes in Austroasiatic, ten discrete desegmentalization models are proposed. The output typologies for the suprasegmental contrasts produced by each model are compared and implications for a general model of tonogenesis and registrogenesis are explored. This thesis offers (1) a digestible introduction for the non-specialist to the historical development of suprasegmental contrast in MSEA, (2) a resynthesis of current tonogenetic theory which integrates classical tonogenesis, classical registrogenesis and various other, lesser-known evolutionary pathways under the larger umbrella of desegmentalization and (3) a comprehensive overview of tone and register origins in the Austroasiatic family.