Noun incorporation in Sora

Jacob B. Phillips

India is a hotbed for linguistic diversity, with over 450 languages from multiple language families. One such language is Sora, a member of Munda language group, a branch of the Austroasiatic family spoken in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. Sora has over 250,000 speakers and is used in day-to-day interactions, but there is a gradual shift occurring as speakers are adopting the majority language Oriya. Sora is primarily oral language; some efforts have been made to introduce writing systems although these have primarily been used to translate the Christian Bible.

Linguistically Sora is noteworthy for its reduplication, with an unprecedented thirteen percent of the lexicon exhibiting one of the multiple forms of reduplication, from full to partial to echo reduplication. It is also noteworthy for a rich system of noun incorporation by which a noun becomes part of the verb stem.

Previous cross-linguistic approaches to noun incorporation have suggested that it is limited to objects/themes. As examples from more languages emerged, some accounts expanded to account for the incorporation of goals, locations or instruments. Yet, in addition to all of these forms, Sora also shows the incorporation of subjects/agents.

This project seeks to bring Sora and other understudied languages to the discourse on noun incorporation. Additionally, it questions existing theoretical claims about noun incorporation: chiefly that noun incorporation is derived by head movement (Baker 1998). Head movement as it stands cannot account for the incorporation of a subject/agent because that would require movement out of a specifier, which is antithetical to the entire theory of head movement.

This project emerged from a growing relationship with Sora, beginning in undergrad working with K. David Harrison and Gregory Anderson. This project will work with data collected from legacy lexicographic sources, field trips to India, and Skype elicitation sessions.

Baker, Mark. 1988. Incorporation: A theory of grammatical function changing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.