A vowel space comparison of Tlawngrang Zophei and Lawngtlang Zophei

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Samson Alexander Lotven
Kelly Harper Berkson

Abstract

Zophei is an undescribed Tibeto-Burman language within the Kuki-Chin family. Originally spoken in the Chin Hills of Western Myanmar, approximately 4,000 Zophei-speaking refugees now live in Central Indiana. No previous research on Zophei exists. The speakers located in Indiana who identify as ethnically Zophei hail from 14 distinct villages, and it is not yet known how many dialects or languages are represented. As part of a larger effort to kick-start a research program on Zophei, the current study presents vowel spaces for two speakers, one from Tlawngrang and one from Lawngtlang. Differences with regard to the number and distribution of high vowels and diphthongs indicate that these two areas speak different varieties with markedly different phonologies. For example, where one speaker has an /ui/ diphthong the other speaker consistently has the front rounded monophthong /y/. This research contributes to our ultimate goal, which is to determine the dialectal make-up of Zophei and to develop a description of the language or languages spoken by the ethnic Zophei population in Indiana.


 

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