Reflexes of the Tibeto-Burman directive suffix *<-t> in Dumi Rai

© George van Driem, 1989

The Dumi are one of the ‘Rai’ tribes of eastern Nepal. The language, a member of the Central Kiranti branch of the Tibeto-Burman language family, is spoken by a dwindling number of elderly Dumi in the area around the Tap and Rava rivers and their confluence in Khotang district in eastern Nepal. An account is provided of the geographical location of the Dumi homeland, illustrated with a map. The dialect distribution and linguistic situation within this area is described. On the basis of collected and analysed data on Dumi verbs, modern reflexes are discussed of an ancient Tibeto-Burman derivational process in this modern Rai language. The process was termed 'directive' by Stuart Wolfenden in 1929 and reconstructed as a morpheme *<-t> suffixed to the stem of the verb. The range of meanings expressed by this suffix have been described as causative, applied, benefactive and malefactive. In most cases, it appears that in Dumi the Tibeto-Burman suffix *<-t> derives a bi-actantial from a mono-actantial verb, usually yielding a transitive from an intransitive verb. Several Dumi paired verbs are compared with their Limbu counterparts, and a number of possible verbal triplets in Dumi and Limbu raise the question whether there may in some cases not have been two grades of Tibeto-Burman directive *<-t> suffixation in Kiranti and other Tibeto-Burman languages, reflecting the same or a related process at two time depths.