Timbisha (Panamint)

Timbisha (Panamint). By John E. McLaughlin. (Languages of the world/materials 453.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2006. Pp. 65. ISBN 9783895862427. €39.

Reviewed by Jason Brown, University of British Columbia

Timbisha, a Uto-Aztecan language of the Numic family, is traditionally spoken in the area of Death Valley, California and in adjacent portions of Nevada. It is closely related to Shoshone. This grammar, which focuses primarily on phonology and morphology, represents several years of John E. McLaughlin’s work on the Timbisha language.

Timbisha has a series of voiceless stops in the underlying phonemic inventory that exhibit interesting allophonic alternations. For example, stop, nasal, and affricate segments show allophonic distinctions in spirantized (initial or intervocalic), geminated (intervocalic), preaspirated (between a /h/ and a vowel), and nasalized series (between a homorganic nasal and a vowel). Stem-final segments are restricted to vowels, /n/, /h/, geminates, and glottal stops. Stem-final consonants often delete preceding /s/, /h/, or a vowel.

Timbisha exhibits morphological marking of number (e.g. singular, dual, plural) and case (e.g. nominative, accusative, possessive) on nominals. A set of what are known as absolutive suffixes mark nominals, although these suffixes no longer encode the usual absolutive function discussed in the ergative literature. Nominal predication, the pronominals (e.g. personal, demonstrative, reflexive, interrogative, indefinite), and adjectives are also discussed.

In the chapter on adverbials, M focuses on sentence particles, which are used to express interrogatives, quotatives, and ‘not’. These particles are typically found in the second position of the sentence.

Verbal morphology is perhaps the most morphologically complex domain of Timbisha. This area includes prefixes (e.g. instrumental), noun incorporation, verb stem modifications (e.g. suppletive number forms, gemination for marking duration or habitual activities, and reduplication for expressing repetition), secondary verbs, prefinal suffixes (which differ from secondary verbs in that they are not derived from lexical verbs), and finally, nominalizing, directional, tense and aspect, imperative, and number suffixes.

Although Timbisha word order is relatively free, subject-object-verb order is most common. In subordinate clauses, the subject of the main clause comes first, then the subordinate clause, followed by the object, and finally, the verb of the main clause. Uto-Aztecan languages such as Timbisha often mark switch reference in subordinate clauses. A same-subject marker is used for situations in which the subjects of both clauses refer to the same individual; a different-subject marker is used when the two subjects are different in reference. Switch reference has two different morphological forms that also mark temporality.

Overall, this book provides an excellent overview of Timbisha phonology and morphology.

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