Emphatic Reduplication in Oroqen: Past, Present, and Future

Anna Schleusener

University of Chicago


Oroqen is an endangered northwestern Tungusic language spoken in northeast China in Inner Mongolia and the Heilongjiang province. In this paper, I focus on a single derivational process within the language: the partial reduplication of adjective stems to indicate intensity. After providing a comprehensive description of the process of emphatic reduplication in section (1), I argue that the process was borrowed into Oroqen from Mongolic via extended intimate contact with Dagur. For a more thorough understanding of my argument, I break down my evidence over the next few sections. In section (2), I present geographical and phonological evidence to show that emphatic reduplication in Oroqen is not an archaic genetic trait of Proto-Altaic, but rather a more recent borrowing. In section (3), a close examination of C2 slot variation provides a glimpse of emphatic reduplication’s ultimate source: Mongolic. After these predominantly linguistic analyses, in section (4) I turn to historical evidence regarding extended, intimate contact between the Oroqen and Dagur. Once I examine Oroqen’s history, In section (5) I examine anecdotal evidence for the language’s obsolescence and significant shift to Mandarin Chinese over the last 25 years. Last, in section (6) I briefly examine the two more recent historical factors that contribute to Oroqen language death: minority exemption from the PRC’s the One Child Policy and the Nine Year Compulsory Education Law, under which all Chinese citizens receive nine years of public education entirely in Mandarin.