By Liberty A. Lidz
This dissertation is a descriptive grammar of Yongning Na (Mosuo), a Tibeto-Burman language spoken in southwestern China. The theoretical methods taken are practical syntax and the discourse-based method of language description and
documentation. the purpose of this dissertation is to explain the ways in which the language’s
features and subsystems intersect to make Na a special entity: analycity; 0 anaphora;
OV note order; topic/comment info constitution; a five-part evidential approach; a
conjunct/disjunct-like process that intersects with evidentiality and verbal semantics;
prolific grammaticalization; overlap among nominalization and relativization and
associated constructions; illustration of time via element, Aktionsart, adverbials, and
context; and the Daba shamanic register.
Topics coated within the grammar comprise an outline of the sociolinguistic
environment; the phonemic stock; phonological approaches; compounding; word
classes; the constitution of noun words; the classifier process; sorts of ownership; methods
for quantification; grammatical kin and non-systemic ‘ergative’ and ‘anti-ergative’
marking; the constitution of verb words; the a number of existential verbs; the aspectual
system; evidentiality; grammaticalization; clause-combining; narrative texts; and lexicon.
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Additional info for A Descriptive Grammar of Yongning Na (Mosuo)
Although the taboo focuses most circumscriptly on discussion of relationships in the hearth room and between relatives of the opposite sex, it is more generally taboo to talk about one’s relationship with anyone outside of one’s small, tightly-knit cohort of friends of the same age and gender, and it is considered impolite to talk about another’s relationship unless s/he has brought the topic up. Ironically, although discussion of zŏuhūn relationships is taboo, zŏuhūn is heavily promoted as one of the key unusual Na customs in the tourist literature, which is written by Han outsiders and tour promoters, so tourists arrive with the expectation that zŏuhūn is somehow a site to see, and often ask audacious questions of locals.
Data presented are taken from audio- and video-recordings of oral narratives, such as folklore and mythology, which I recorded with the aim of documenting the culture of the Na linguistic community, their natural speech patterns, and important aspects of Na belief systems and the Daba shamanic religion. This methodology, the discourse- centered approach to language documentation (Sherzer 1987, Sherzer and Woodbury 1987, Urban and Sherzer 1988), also captures casual speech not obtained through formal elicitation and grammaticality judgments, thus yielding a more well-rounded data set.
3 gives a brief typological profile of Na for the reader desiring an overview of the major features of the language. 4 discusses key aspects of Na life and society. 6 discusses the very recent tourist economy that has developed because of newly middle-class Han Chinese visiting from the eastern cities. 7 provides a critical assessment of language vitality. 1 CLASSIFICATION The language of the Na (also known as Mosuo) is estimated at 40,000 speakers (Yang 2009, divided among three dialects. This work focuses on the Yongning variety of Na (hereafter, Na), as spoken at the fieldwork site of the village of lu33-ʂu33 (Luoshui / 落 水村 ) on Lugu Lake (泸沽湖) in Yunnan Province.
A Descriptive Grammar of Yongning Na (Mosuo) by Liberty A. Lidz