Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Jason Kandybowicz

Committee Members

Dianne Bradley

Suzanne van der Feest

Kristine Hildebrandt

Subject Categories

Language Description and Documentation | Phonetics and Phonology


Gurung, Tibeto-Burman, phonetics, phonology, Tamu Kyui, Tamangic


This dissertation describes the sound system of the Sikles variety of Gurung, or Tamu Kyui, a Tibeto-Burman minority language of Nepal. Drawing on data collected with the help of Sikles Gurung speakers living in Nepal and New York between 2014 and 2018, it presents evidence that the phonetics and phonology of this variety differ from descriptions of other varieties. Major findings include contrastive vowel duration, a 2-category register system rather than the 4-tone system reported for other varieties, and allophonic secondary consonant articulations assigned by the backness of adjacent vowels and glides. The secondary articulation system is linked to the three glides described for Sikles Gurung: palatal, labiovelar, and unrounded velar. The unrounded velar glide corresponds to the low or central glides described for closely related languages.

Sikles Gurung is best analyzed with a 3-way laryngeal contrast for word-initial obstruents, supported by voice onset time measurements. As is reported for other Tamangic languages, obstruent laryngeal contrasts interact with the register system, although in Sikles the asymmetric distribution of contrasts across each register category is linked to obstruent place of articulation. The distinction between the phonological and grammatical word is invoked to account for additional asymmetries in the number of contrasts permitted in different syllables.

This dissertation also examines allophonic post-stopped nasals, the lateral fricative, and six word-final lenition processes, all of which are characteristic features of the Gurung spoken in Sikles Village. It argues that the word-final lenition processes are tied to contrastive vowel duration and secondary consonant articulations, and draws parallels with sound changes reported for other Tibeto-Burman languages. As analyzed in this dissertation, Sikles Gurung patterns closely with other Tibeto-Burman languages of Nepal, and may show fewer contact effects than is reported for other varieties.