Topics in Nivkh Phonology

In order to obtain a PhD in the Netherlands one traditionally submits not just a dissertation but also a list of approximately ten stellingen, i.e. ‘theses’ or ‘propositions’ of one or two sentences each. A few of these summarise the main themes of the book, but there are also a few which have a broader outlook.

Toshi Shiraishi will defend his dissertation Topics in Nivkh Phonology next week in Groningen. His 7th thesis is:

  • Fieldwork linguists should be more occupied with theoretical linguistics, and theoretical linguists more with fieldwork linguistics.

Toshi’s own work is a good illustration of how fruitful it can be to do fieldwork with a solid theoretical background, and work on the theory with a good grasp of the problems with the data. He spent a lot of time on the island of Sakhalin, in the Russian Far East, where the language is still spoken by a few hundred older people. But he did not just randomly collect data: his dissertation contributes to at least two important topical debates in current theory: about the precise representation of laryngeal contrasts, and about the phonology-syntax interface (since Nivkh has an interesting process of consonant mutation, which according to Shiraishi occurs at the edges of syntactic phrases).

The text of the dissertation is available here.

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