A grammar of Betta Kurumba
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation describes the language of the Betta Kurumbas, an indigenous ethnic group (population: 1000-2000) of the Nilgiri Mountains, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, India. My goal in writing this grammar is to present a comprehensive description of Betta Kurumba phonology and morphosyntax, describing the structural arrangement of sounds and grammatical categories within a word, as well as the grammatical and discourse functions for which these categories are used. Verbs and nouns are described in especial detail because these display a rich system of suffixal morphology (the language is exclusively suffixal and agglutinating). An especially interesting aspect of Betta Kurumba is the role that non-finite verbs play in the synchronic grammar and in its diachronic development. Diachronically, verb roots involved in an earlier pattern of verb serialization have become grammaticalized into derivational or inflectional suffixes. The earlier serialization pattern apparently consisted of a sequence of verb roots, in which the non-final root was marked for tense, and the final root for tense and other inflection; the combination [root1 + tense + root2] has developed into a morphological sequence of [root + realis or irrealis marker + derivational/ inflectional suffix]. Concurrently, the language has developed a large number of verbal suffixes, which are identified in this dissertation as clause-chaining suffixes. Some of these clause-chain markers are also used for verb serialization; thus, the current pattern of verb serialization differs formally from the earlier pattern described above. Verb serialization itself has given rise to a small set of auxiliary verbs, with specific grammatical functions. The dissertation traces the grammatical and discourse connection between chained clauses, serial verbs, and auxiliary verbs in Betta Kurumba. It also explores the use of clause-chain markers as an important text-structuring device in the language, both for the organization of information and the manipulation of rhetorical effect.