Southern Cordilleran is a fairly well-defined subgroup of Northern Luzon languages in the Philippines, consisting of the languages Ilongot, Pangasinan, Inibaloi, Karao, I‑wak, and Kallahan (Reid 1979a, Himes 1998), some of which are dialect chains with considerable diversity between dialects. Although there are several reasonably good grammatical descriptions of these languages (Benton 1971, Ballard et al. 1971, Hohulin, L. 1971, Hohulin, R.M. 1971, Brainard 1997, Ruffolo 2005), little reconstruction (and no morphosyntactic reconstruction) has been done of their parent language. This project will attempt to provide the first reconstruction of the structure of the noun phrase in Proto-Southern Cordilleran, with particular reference to the system of "phrase markers", forms which typically introduce most NPs in Philippine-type languages.

The reconstruction of so-called "phrase markers" in Austronesian languages presents a set of problems that have daunted linguists for many years. The primary problem centers on the determination of distinguishing retentions from innovations. Blust (2005:218) notes that "the reconstruction of the meanings or functions of PAn/PMP phrase markers presents one of the most daunting challenges that a comparativist face[s] in this language family...the attested systems of PMs [phrase markers] exhibit an exuberant variety of structural differences..." This is true also for the reconstruction of the meanings and functions of "phrase markers" at lower-level subgroups in the family, as well. As Blust (2005) notes in critiquing his own early work on reconstructing genitive forms in Austronesian, choosing homophonous and homosemantic forms from different subgroups in Austronesian and claiming them to be reconstructible to the parent language runs the risk of mistaking convergent development for inheritance.

In several early papers (Reid 1974, 1978, 1979b, 1981), I attempted to reconstruct some of these forms for early stages of Philippine and Austronesian proto-languages. Some of these forms have generally been accepted, but others have, justifiably, been challenged. For example, the genitive set, *na, *ni and *nu first proposed in Reid (1981), has been discussed more recently by Ross (2002) and by Blust (2005) with different proposals as to the significance of the vowel differences between the forms. Although one or other of the proposals made in these papers may be correct, there can be no assurance that this is so, until sufficient "bottom-up" reconstruction has been done in each of the subgroups from which data has been selected, to guarantee that the forms chosen do in fact represent retentions of the proposed proto-forms, and are the not the result of convergent development.

In recent papers, I have attempted to avoid these problems by doing careful, step-by-step reconstruction within small, well-attested subgoups, and comparing the results with reconstructions done using the same methodology within closely related subgroups. In Reid (2006), I discussed some of the problems in attempting bottom-up reconstruction of "phrase markers", noting the necessity of first determining not only the form and function of each of the items being compared, but also their distributional features. Using these criteria it was noted that there are three classes of forms which typically introduce NPs in Philippine languages and which have been labelled "phrase markers", 1) prepositions which specify the case of the NP being introduced, 2) nominal specifiers which typically have no semantic content but specify one or more of the semantic features of the nominal it precedes, see also Reid (2002), and 3) deictic forms which can follow a nominal specifier and function as the head of the NP. Deictic forms can become grammaticalized as nominal specifiers, and these in turn can become case-marking prepositions.

In Reid (2006), I also discussed some of the problems that interfere with the reconstruction of these forms. One of these problems was discussed in detail in Reid (in press), and was labelled "vowel-grade harmony". It is a commonly observed fact that the quality of the vowel of nominal specifiers varies from language to language, thus in Ivatan, the forms which introduce common noun phrases all have an /u/ vowel, while those which introduce personal noun phrases all have an /i/ vowel, while in Tagalog the forms which introduce common noun phrases all have an /a/ vowel, while those which introduce personal noun phrases all have an /i/ vowel, like Ivatan. A kind of long-distance vowel harmony across phrase boundaries appeared to account for the vocalic similarity between the nominal specifiers in at least some Philippine languages. This process ultimately also accounted for the fact that oblique and locative markers in the Central Cordilleran languages had identical vowels, either /i/, /u/, or /a/, even though some adjacent villages within the same language sometimes had a different vowel for these forms than its geographically adjoining village. Accounting for the change in vowel between the villages required careful analytical detail of dialectal differences, and consideration of the interplay of complex phonological details within the sets of functionally equivalent forms.

Other problems interfering with straightforward reconstruction of these forms include analogical reformation resulting from homophony between shortened enclitic forms of some of the markers, and neutralization of contrast between forms as a result of regular sound change.

Reid (2006) focussed on the reconstruction of the case-marking prepositions, nominal specifiers and deictic forms of Proto-Central Cordilleran. The present project will extend the reconstructive process to Proto-Southern Cordilleran, the immediate sister subgroup of Proto-Central Cordilleran. Comparison of these two sets of "phrase markers" will then lead to the reconstruction of the parent of these two groups, Proto South-Central Cordilleran, and ultimately to Proto-Cordilleran (also referred to as Proto-Northern Luzon), the parent of some fifty different languages spoken in the north of the Philippines.


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____. 1981. Proto-Austronesian genitive determiners. In Linguistics across continents: Studies in honor of Richard S. Pittman, Andrew B. Gonzalez, FSC and David Thomas (eds.), 97-105. Manila: Summer Institute of Linguistics and Linguistic Society of the Philippines.

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____. 2006. On reconstructing the morphosyntax of Proto-Northern Luzon. 10th International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics. Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines.

____. in press. Vowel-grade harmony in syntactic change. Oceanic Linguistics.

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