Summer’s wrapping up, a new academic year’s about to roll in, and if all goes well, I might be returning to more active blogging around here.
I have also returned, about a week ago, from the 12th International Congress for Finno-Ugric Studies. You can check out my presentation online, too: Semivowel losses and assimilations, in Finnic and beyond. Longtime readers may recall me having first explored the ideas within many blog posts (and one blog platform) ago. Evidence has continued to turn up, and I’m by now quite convinced that my newfound soundlaw *je- > Finnic *i- indeed exists.
The title is admittedly a bit more general than what might be warranted per the presentation’s contents. For space concerns, I was not able to treat the topic of initial semivowels in Uralic languages in more general.
I could mention one fairly simple addendum here, though — while *wo- has been already traditionally well-established, and I attempt to show that abundant evidence of *je- can be found as well, by contrast it seems to me that **wu- and **ji- were not possible sequences in Proto-Uralic (and they remain impossible in most descendant languages as well).
Only one widely accepted instance *wu- has been proposed: the word for ‘new’ (> Fi. uusi, Hu. új etc.), traditionally reconstructed (modulo notation) as *wud₂ə. I however suspect that this should be instead reconstructed with *o, and that the evidence suggesting *u is due to the shift *o-ə > *u-ə in open syllables, as first proposed by Janhunen (1981) for the Finno-Permic end of the family. (Seen also in e.g. *lomə > *lumə > Fi. lumi ‘snow’. Sammallahti has later suggested that the change also affected Ugric; I am skeptical, however. More on this at some point in the future.) — For *ji- there are a few more potential examples, but the best-looking cases (? *jikä ‘age’, ? *jitɜ ‘night’) fall among those where I believe *je- should be rather reconstructed.
If so, then it seems to me that we can likely apply for Proto-Uralic a phonological analysis also known from various other languages of the world: to unite *j *w on one hand and *i *u on the other as allophones of each other.