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Lecture | Comparative Indo-European Linguistics (CIEL) Seminars

Kusundic, a possible linguistic substrate in the Himalayas

Friday 26 April 2024
Comparative Indo-European Linguistics (CIEL) Seminars
Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 1-4
2311 BZ Leiden
Building 2 room 0.02


Kusunda is a language which is at present only spoken by one middle-aged woman living in western Nepal. The Kusunda speech community, former nomadic hunter-gatherers who adapted to a settled existence during the last century, numbers a mere 162 people. While several potential relationships between Kusunda and the language families of Asia were proposed in the past, none of these has gathered sufficient evidence, and linguists continue to consider Kusunda a language isolate.

In recent years, more data have become available on Kusunda and the Trans-Himalayan (Tibeto-Burman, Sino-Tibetan) languages of Asia. This progressively enables a more in-depth evaluation of Kusunda’s possible phylolinguistic position. Regardless of the linguistic affiliation of Kusunda, Kusundic, or the phylum to which Kusunda and its possibly extinct sister languages belongs, may have once been more widespread across South Asia, in particular, across the southern Himalayan foothills. Kusundic may hence form a linguistic substratum that could at least partially explain the great divergence we observe among the Trans-Himalayan languages of the southern Himalayan slopes. In this talk, I will present some initial evidence for this Kusundic substratum hypothesis.

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