*ü > *i, *ü in Samoyedic

I have noted before that Proto-Uralic *ü, whose reconstruction has at times been opposed by various scholars, has never received a truly detailed defense.

Arguments contra have never been very detailed either — but one recurring claim has been that the contrast *i | *ü might not be reflected in Samoyedic. People who subscribe to a primary division between Finno-Ugric and Samoyedic (I do not, but I recognize that this is not universally held) will be therefore able to propose that the contrast did not yet exist in Proto-Uralic proper, and only emerged later on in the Finno-Ugric group, perhaps in different ways in different descendants. [1]

The most common opinion around is that the principal reflex of *ü in Samoyedic is indeed *i. This is claimed e.g. by Steinitz (1944), Sammallahti (1979) and Janhunen (1981). [2] The known examples all behave well enough:

  • *d₂ümä > *jimä ‘glue’ (~ Finnish tymä)
  • *nüd₁ə > *nir ‘handle’ (~ Fi. nysi, Eastern Khanty /nöl/, etc.) [3]
  • *śüdₓə > *sijə ‘coal’ (~ Fi. sysi, EKh /söj/, etc.)
  • *sülə > *tij ‘fathom’ (~ Fi. syli, Hungarian öl, EKh /löl/, etc.)
  • *türə > *tir ‘full’ (~ Fi. tyrtyä ‘to be satiated’, etc.)
  • *tütkə- > *titə- ‘to open’ (~ EKh /töwətteeɣə-/ ‘to open wide’)

However, Proto-Samoyedic is reconstructed with also an *ü (retained roughly as is in the southern languages: Selkup, Kamassian & Mator). And at least since Sammallahti, also cases with apparent retention from Proto-Uralic have been recognized. The data is rather sparse, but the following look reliable to me:

  • *küntə > *küntə ‘smoke’ (~ Hu. köd ‘fog’)
  • *kütkə- > *küt- ‘to tie’ (~ Hu. köt-, Fi. kytke-)
  • *ńüktä- > *ńüt- ‘to pull’ (~ Fi. nyhtä- ‘to rip off’; Hu. nyű– ‘to rip’) [4]

This kind of two-fold reflection would not be unique in Uralic. In fact, it resembles quite a bit the situation found in at least three other nearby Uralic dialect groups: Southern Khanty, Northern Khanty and Southern Mansi. In all three of these, we find “conditional retention”:

  • *ü remains a labial vowel: SMs /ü/, SKh /o/, [5] NKh /u/ ~ /uu/, when adjacent to a velar consonant: *k, *ɣ, *ŋ. A following *ɣ is also colored to /w/.
  • *ü becomes an illabial vowel: SMs /ä/, SKh /e/, NKh /ä/ ~ /a/, when not adjacent to a velar.

The exact same thing seems to be what is going on in Samoyedic. None of the cases in the first group occur next to an original velar consonant; all cases in the second group do. The contrast *i | *ü would therefore appear to be preserved in Samoyedic after all, although only in this one particular environment.

Phonetic details

Both Mansi and Khanty also suggest that this development is probably not conditional retention — but more likely something I could call “double cheshirization”. First *ü indeed develops to *i, but in the process it colors an adjacent velar consonant, e.g. *k > *kʷ. This phase is attested in Mansi, e.g. *künčə > *kʷinčə >> Western/Eastern /kʷäš/, Northern *kʷas > †/kʷos/ > /kos/ [6] ‘nail’; in the case of medial velar consonants, most often *-ɣ-, also in Surgut Khanty, e.g. *sükśə > *süɣəs >*siɣʷəs > /sewəs/ ‘autumn’.  Then, *kʷ and *ŋʷ develop back to *k and *ŋ, but in the process they color an adjacent *i (or the like) either back to /ü/ (Southern Mansi), or to a back vowel, /o ~ u ~ uu/ (Khanty). So altogether: *kü- > *kʷi- > /kü-/, while e.g. *tü- > *ti- (and not > **tʷi- > **tü-). Expected *ɣʷ however merges with *w, which then generally remains. [7]

One benefit of this approach is that we can assume some amount of vowel rotation to intervene. As seen from the above examples, the de-labialized reflexes of *ü in Mansi and Khanty are not /i/, unlike in Samoyedic. In Mansi, *ü still merges with inherited *i, but they both end up further lowered to *ä (which can be then e.g. secondarily lengthened to /ää/ or backed to /a/). In Khanty, *ü de-labializes at a late stage, by which the reflexes of *ü and *i in Khanty had already drifted out of sync. The development at this time is also probably more [ʏ] > [ɪ] than [y] > [i]. The eventual outcome can be a reduced close ~ mid vowel /e/ (in EKh and SKh; phonetically approx. [ɪ]), a reduced open vowel /ä/ (in the Obdorsk dialect of NKh) or even reduced back open /a/ (in the most innovative dialects of NKh where earlier *a mostly > /o/, such as that of Kazym). By contrast /i/ gives mainly tense /ee/ (~ open reduced /ä/ in Surgut).

For illustration, here are a few of the words from my first list again, with Proto-Uralic *ü in a non-velar environment, now with their reflexes in Southern Mansi, Southern Khanty and Northern Khanty:

  • *nüd₁ə > SMs /näl/, SKh /net/, NKh Kaz. /naɬ/, Obd. /näl/ ‘handle’
  • *sülə > SMs /täl/, SKh /tet/, NKh Kaz. /ɬaɬ/, Obd. /läl/ ‘fathom’

(These two appear to be the only examples retained in both Samoyedic and in all relevant Ob-Ugric dialects.)

Additional parallels

While there is clearly a widely parallel set of innovations involved, it is however not possible to assume *(k)ü- > *(kʷ)i- as a general East Uralic innovation. After all, *ü remains as a rounded front vowel in Eastern Khanty on one hand, Hungarian on the other, regardless of the environment. [8]

But even more impressively, the similarities do not end here! Northern Khanty (but again, not Eastern Khanty) and Mansi (this time in general) also share a related sound change, by which original *wi- becomes *wü-. In the former this is followed by loss of *w-, and due to this the change can be identified as common Mansi rather than exclusively Southern Mansi: e.g. *wittə ‘5’ > *wütə > *ütə >> Proto-Mansi *ätə > SMs /ät/,  NMs ат /at/ ‘5’. [9] Compare EKh (Vakh-Vasjugan) and NKh /weet/.

This split, as well as the Mansi-style loss of *w, occurs even in Hungarian, where the resulting secondary *ü is retained as a labial vowel, just like primary inherited *ü: öt ‘5’, öl- ‘to kill’.

Samoyedic again follows suit:

  • *wittə > *wüət ’10’
  • *wixə- ‘to take somewhere’ > *ü- ‘to drag’

While there are only two examples of this precise development, it can be identified as a more general shift *i > *ü next to labiovelars, with a total of five examples in Samoyedic after all.

I can indeed find no clear examples of Proto-Samoyedic words beginning with *wi-. Most cases that have earlier been reconstructed as such can be now identified as rather continuing *we-; notably *wet pro **wit ‘water’, where original *e is assured both by Old Nganasan †be’, and western cognates such as Fi. vesi. Probably a similar case is PSmy *wi/eŋü ‘son-in-law’, cf. Fi. vävy with open /ä/. The reconstruction of *e is not verifiable, though: Old Nganasan †biŋi has undergone a (regular) assimilation *e-i > *i-i, as also in e.g. *kettä (? *käktä) ‘2’ > *ketä > *śetä > †śiti.

Clear examples of *ü next to a former labiovelar also include *jüjə ‘beard moss’, *kürə ‘rope’ < PU *jäwjə, *käwd₁ə; but here we seem to have a distinct coloring process, perhaps with something like *äw > *öw as its first stage.

Implications within Samoyedic?

Another interesting fact is that the Nganasan reflex of PSmy *ü is *i. It is in principle possible that this actually reflects a more archaic stage than the rest of Samoyedic: if PSmy *ü normally develops by “re-coloring” from an intermediate *i, then perhaps this last stage of the shift never happened in Nganasan.

The contrast *i | *ü is nominally reflected in Nganasan, in that the former palatalizes a preceding *k, while the latter doesn’t (e.g. *kimä > /śimi/ ‘coal’ | *küntə > /kintə/ ‘smoke’). However, this could be also analyzed as reflecting instead an intermediate contrast *ki | *kʷi: just as in e.g. western Romance, plain *k would have been palatalized, yielding /ś/, while labialized *kʷ would have resisted, and later lost its palatalization.

This regardless seems less likely to me than the usual explanation. The shift *ü > /i/ would not be isolated in Nganasan: it is instead part of an extensive vowel chainshift, whereby also *u > /ü/, *o > /u/, *å > /o/. (And though I have not seen this mentioned in sources, presumably also the raising of 2nd syllable open “non-neutral” stem vowels *ä, *å to /i/, /u/ is a part of this.)

Another possible counterargument is that the case of *ńüktä- > *ńüt- shows that at least the re-cheshirization *ikʷ > *ük must be earlier than the loss of *k from consonant clusters. But the latter is reflected in all Samoyedic languages, and would be best dated to Proto-Samoyedic proper.

Exceptions & more

A few additional complications to the scheme above exist as well.

Firstly, there are some cases of *ü in Proto-Samoyedic that do not seem to occur next to a velar consonant.

In loanwords this is a non-issue, e.g. *jür ‘fat’ ← Turkic *jür₂. Many other cases could be also explained in a similar way as ‘to pull’, ‘rope’: from a pre-form with a velar consonant, later regularly lost. Some examples of this type would be e.g. *jü ‘knot’ < pseudo-PU ? *jüKə; *čürə ‘ski pole’ < ? *čäwrV-. There also seem to be cases of *ü that come from the fronting of former *u, such as *jürə- ‘to get lost’, most likely from PU *jurə- (> Samic *jorë-, etc.). In principle *ju- > *jü-, as seen here, could even be regular! There are no examples of PSmy *ju- in vocabulary of Uralic origin.

A second complication is one apparent counterexample. ‘Snake’ in Proto-Uralic is usually reconstructed as *küjə. Several reflexes however point to a secondary derivative along the lines of *küjə-wä. These include Erzya /kijov/, Hungarian kígyó — and in Samoyedic: *kiwä, rather than expected *kʷiwä > *küwä. However, I suspect that the reconstruction with original *ü is erroneous. It seems to be based on Finnic *küü (> Fi. kyy, etc.) in the first place, secondarily also on Udmurt /kɨj/. But if instead of assuming variation *küjə ~ *küjə-wä we reconstructed only a single variant, then perhaps the source of labialization in the Finnic form is instead the “suffix” *-wä, and we can make do with *kijəwä. The later development in Finnic would then seem to be something along the lines of > *kiiwä > *küüwä > *küü.

Maybe we could even reconstruct a simple bisyllabic form *kejwä. This has the benefit of regularly explaining Erzya /i/ (*e-ä > /i/). In Samoyedic, ‘snake’ is not attested from Nganasan, so also *kewä is an equally possible reconstruction; and in Hungarian, í /iː/ usually indicates earlier *e, not *i (e.g. *wetə > víz ‘water’; *me > mi ‘we’; *ke > ki ‘who’). Contraction *ijV > í would be another option in principle, but hardly here: *-j- seems to be instead fortited to yield medial -gy-. This is again less compatible with Udmurt, however, where from *e we would expect Proto-Permic **koj > ˣ/kuj/; something like a Finnic-style assimilation *ej > *ij or a late fronting *u > /ɨ/ (a common enough phenomenon in Udmurt) would have to be assumed.

Also challenging is Tundra Nenets /ṕud/ ‘rope’, which has known cognates in Mordvinic (/piks/), Hungarian (obsolete fiu) and Khanty (*püüɣəL). The Nenets form suggests PSmy *pütə. On first look, this fits well enough into the picture so far: *-t- comes from PU *-ks-, and hence *ü could be conditioned by the former coda velar. But the cognates do not suggest PU *ü; they look more like PU *peksä, or, in principle, *pexsV. [10] Is labialization triggered here by the initial *p-, or is this an example of something more complex along the lines of PU #pewVksV? Or maybe, as Janhunen (1981) suggests, /u/ in Nenets could also be some kind of a late secondary development? There seems to be a parallel of sorts in ‘liver’: PU *mëksa > PSmy *mïtə > TNe /mid/ (literary мыд) ~ /mud/, with /i/ > /u/ between a bilabial and *t. But this could also be purely a coincidence… *mï- > /mu-/ seems to be regular in Enets, and maybe the TNe variant with /u/ for ‘liver’ is simply borrowed from there.

[1] The most consistent defender of this approach has probably been Gyula Décsy. His proposal has been free variation *[i ~ y] in early Finno-Ugric in various labializing environments, later semi-randomly fossilized as separate phonemes. (E.g. 1969: “Die Streitfragen der finnougrischen Lautforschung”, Ural-Altaische Jahrbücher 41.) This is gratuitously vague, though. Any reconstructions involving free variation are probably unverifiable even in principle, though, and I’d like to see some actual precedents for the alleged mechanism of “fossilization of free variation” before I buy any non-explanation of this sort.
[2] The first two of these have been by now added to a new section on my Bibliography page.
[3] The proposed Hungarian cognate nyél is multiply irregular — unexpected palatalization, unexpected vowel height and roundedness — and might not belong here at all.
[4] A new comparison, to my knowledge. The derivative *ńüktä- has previously only been attested from western branches of Uralic: Finnic (Fi. nyhtää ‘to pull (off)’), Mordvinic and Mari. The base root *ńükə-, meanwhile, has cognates also in Ugric, e.g. Hungarian dialectal nyű. The sound correspondences are mostly unproblematic, though SW reconstructs *nüt¹- (= *nüt- or *nüč-) rather than *ńüt- for Proto-Samoyedic. The only reliable reflexes are however from Nenets and Kamassian, which do not distinguish *n- from *ń- before front vowels. Southern Selkup /nüš-/ ‘to tear in half’, with unexpected /š/ as well, is perhaps best left unrelated.
[5] Phonetically the Southern Khanty reflex is actually centralized [ɵ̆] (traditionally transcribed ȯ̆). I follow Honti in analyzing this as an allophone of /o/ next to a velar consonant. Also the opposite interpretation has been proposed though, by Edith Vértes in her editorial comments in the 2nd volume of K. F. Karjalainens Südostjakische Textsammlungen (1997; SUST 225): phonemic /ö/ which conditions a velar ([-back]) allophone [k] of /k/, distinct from phonemic /o/ which conditions the uvular ([+back]) allophone [χ]. However, it is necessary to consider [k] versus [χ] to be phonemic in some other positions (one minimal pair is /keečə/ ‘knife’ versus /xeečə/ ‘mold’; from Proto-Khanty *keečää | *kïïčəɣ), and I think this means that the same would be the preferrable analysis also for the contrast of [kɵ̆] versus [χŏ]. Vértes also notes cases of [ɵ̆] that occur in other environments, though; so Honti’s analysis may have to be back-dated to proto-Southern Khanty, followed by the phonemicization of /ö/ in the separate SKh dialects due to loanwords & such.
[6] /kʷo-/ for PU *kü- > PMs *kʷä- was still recorded by Bernát Munkácsi in his field records from 1888. The field records of Artturi Kannisto from 1905, however, already have just /ko-/, as still in today’s Northern Mansi.
[7] Phonetic [ɣʷ] is attested from Tremjugan Khanty, but this can be interpreted as a post-vocalic allophone of /w/. Márta Csepregi’s chrestomathy gives [ɣʷ] also for /w/ before /uu/.
[8] I suppose a theoretical realignment would be to reconstruct some kind of a different secondary labializing factor for word roots of the ‘glue’, ‘handle’ type (e.g. **d₂imwä, **nid₁wə?), but this does not seem to offer any clear benefits: we would have to assume that this labializing factor gets lost everywhere, but also manages to cause the same kind of rounding effect even in Finnic (which definitely has never been a neighbor of Eastern Khanty specifically).
[9] A final vowel is attested in early Mansi records, though by the late 1800s lost from all varieties. I reconstruct *-ə for such cases; they can be moreover secondarily identified by vowel lengthening in *open syllables in Western and Eastern Mansi, thus  here e.g. /äät/ and not ˣ/ät/.
[10] Janhunen (1981) suggests *piksi (= my *piksə), but this does not actually match any of the descendants.

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22 comments on “*ü > *i, *ü in Samoyedic
  1. David Marjanović says:


    The headline immediately made me think of my own German dialect, but there the case is much simpler: unrounding of MHG /ʏ ø/ to /ɪ e/, followed by Central Bavarian L-umlaut of /ɪ…l e…l ɛ…l/ to /ʏ ø œ/.

    Speaking of German:

    “Streitfragen des finnougrisches Lautforschung”, Ural-Altaisches Jahrbücher

    I bet that’s “Streitfragen der finnougrischen Lautforschung”, Ural-Altaische Jahrbücher.


    Improbable. I’ve encountered a 19th-century Entwickelung, but, at least since then, this /l/ doesn’t stay syllabic when a vowel follows and is therefore not written as syllabic ( = el): Textsammlungen.

    I’d like to see some actual precedents for the alleged mechanism of “fossilization of free variation” before I buy any non-explanation of this sort.

    Maybe I can offer something slightly similar. Following the High German consonant shift, Upper German had two holes in the plosive system:

    [b̥ d̥ g̊
    – t –
    pː tː kː]

    Judging from the modern reflexes, short fortis [p] and [k] existed only behind fricatives, where they could easily be interpreted as allophones of /b g/. Indeed, a few OHG spellings with sb, sd, sg exist.

    In initial position, the [k] hole was filled in in Central Bavarian by deaffrication of /kx/. But the [p] hole was only filled by loans. Confusion set in and has never stopped. Never mind the free variation in OHG spellings, which may all be due to Latin and Romance and the fact that all obstruents were voiceless; a few words in my dialect have /p/ from etymological /b/; there are others where I don’t even know what they have even though I use them. There are also lots of placenames like Perg (presumably < *Berg “mountain”) and surnames like Puchberger ( < *Buch(en)berger “beech mountain man”); these are pronounced with [p] /p/ as written, though these could all be spelling pronunciations.

    • j. says:

      Typos corrected, thanks; should have dubbelchecked those… I only ever actually took classes in German for two years in middle school, and while I’m able to make my way through written text, my production abilities remain, shall we say, quite scrappy.

      • David Marjanović says:

        As I keep saying, I’m quite happy German is my native language so I don’t need to learn it…

    • Blasius B. Blasebalg says:

      Those names would have come from a variety of Bavarian which had b > p in addition to the standard High German d > t shift. Beside names (“Regenspurg” as late as in the 18th century, alternating with “-burg” for other regions), the most prominent piece of evidence may be the following:
      OHG bizzo /ss/ “bite, snack”, corresponding to Bavarian-Langobardian *pizzo /tss/, Italian pizza.
      Of course, this is hardly visible today since most dialects have reworked the distribution of voiceless and voiced consonants.

      • David Marjanović says:

        They never were voiced. And they still aren’t – for me, [b d g] are the most difficult sounds in the whole French language (followed by [z] and [ʒ]), even though I have neither the Interior German nor the eastern Austrian fortis-lenis merger. The whole point of the High German consonant shift was to eliminate aspiration and voice from all obstruents.

        The b ~ p and g ~ k ~ c spelling variations in southern OHG are just that: spelling variations caused by 1) people literate in Latin and quite possibly familiar with a Romance language, in OHG times, being confused by voiceless lenes and transcribing their voicelessness instead of their lining up with the lenis /d/ (once that existed again); 2) the abovementioned lack of /p/ and /k/ in southern OHG (but presence of /t/, /pː/, /tː/, /kː/), with the gap for /p/ being only slowly filled in with loanwords.

        Augsburg and Innsbruck are locally pronounced with /ʃp/, probably because they’re both far enough west that */sp/ has become /ʃp/ everywhere, not just word-initially, and there never was a /sb/-/sp/ distinction.

        • David Marjanović says:

          Uh, I should have mentioned that I have nothing against pizza being from the Longobards. Any [b̥] has a good chance of being interpreted as [p] by people only used to the latter.

          • David Marjanović says:

            …Oops, sorry. I do have something against that. If the HG consonant shift turned short aspirates into short affricates and then into long fricatives (but long aspirates into long affricates which persist to this day), why the long zz in Italian? Is there some phonotactic restriction against *piza?

            • Blasius B. Blasebalg says:

              Pre-German *-t- led to OHG -zz-, probably phonetic /ss/ as a geminate consonant (wazzar, bizzo).
              Therefore it makes sense if there was an intermediate /*tss/ stage.
              Italian now has /tts/, but that seems to be a minor adaptation to the Italian system, doesn’t it?

              • David Marjanović says:

                I suppose that’s possible.

                However, [tsː] is seriously difficult to pronounce in fluent speech in the long run. When such clusters occur in my dialect, length metathesis is regular. More likely is that a short-lived [ts]-[tːs] distinction ( < *[tʰ]-*[tːʰ]) was simplified to [sː]-[tːs], as it still is in most of Upper German (and Standard German with Upper German sound values).

                I know next to nothing about the Italian distribution of [dz] and [ts], let alone its history.

                • David Marjanović says:

                  When such clusters occur

                  Across morpheme boundaries, I mean. Example: Kurzschluss -[tsʃ]- > [tʃː] > [tːʃ].


                  Well. In the example above, all three pronunciations are in actual use; the last option is the most commonly taken one, while the middle one is least common. Their existence is predictable, as are the relative frequencies, so that’s a kind of regularity…

        • Blasius B. Blasebalg says:

          Not convinced. Not at all. But that’s probably not the right place to discuss it (just as a hint to what I don’t believe: Voiceless stops are typically aspirated in most German dialects – basically except Bavarian -, including those partaking in the Shift. Therefore, the HG Consonant Shift couldn’t possibly be about deaspirating. And even more obvious, b and g coexist with t from Protogermanic *d in Upper and Central German dialects (including standard German). So how can you assume that they dropped their voicing for some interval, just to recover it without leaving any marks?
          Of course there is OHG evidence like “cot” (standard spelling got, ‘God’), it’s just cherrypicking to declare one spelling aspect as outside-influenced and another as phonetic evidence. I don’t see any hint to free variation in OHG.)

          • David Marjanović says:

            most German dialects – basically except Bavarian –

            Quite the contrary, aspiration is limited to the northern half. When northerners aspirate Standard German, they’re filling in (not too southern) Low German sound values into a more or less Upper German sound system; and the same holds for voice.

            Of course part of that may be obscured by more recent developments. For example, unshifted initial /k/ in Central German was presumably aspirated until the Inderior German Gonsonant Weagening erased all these distinctions and produced a single obstruent series. Similarly, the Swiss dialects have turned all fortes into long lenes, so if any voice or aspiration existed before that development (which I strongly doubt), there’s no way to tell now.

            All pronunciations of Standard German are descended from regional spelling-pronunciations.

            And even more obvious, b and g coexist with t from Protogermanic *d in Upper and Central German dialects (including standard German). So how can you assume that they dropped their voicing for some interval, just to recover it without leaving any marks?

            They’ve never recovered it, outside of the northern half (where Low German sound values have been filled in – plus, voicing is mostly unreliable there like in English), professional singing and the stage pronunciation. They’re lenes, but they’re voiceless in all environments, even between vowels, even next to nasals or /l/.

            I don’t see any hint to free variation in OHG.

            I see variation in spelling of b ~ p and c/k ~ g – perhaps not entirely free, but not fully regular either (except in Notker). I haven’t encountered OHG variation of d ~ t, presumably because that was the only way to express the phonemic distinction between [d̥] and [t].

            • David Marjanović says:

              Reading this again, I see I’ve oversimplified a few of my claims about geography. And “the northern half” is the northern half of the German-speaking area.

  2. Jyri Lehtinen says:

    If Pre-Mansi *ü merges with *i when not adjacent to velar, how do you account for cases like SMs TJ sülʹī ‘charcoal’ (~ EKh VVj sö̆j ~ WU *śüdi) and SMs sülʹk-, EMs sälʹɣ-, WMs sälʹlʹ-, NMs salʹɣ- ‘spit’ (~ EKh VVj sö̆jəɣ- ~ WU *śülki)?

    • j. says:

      Admittedly I still do not have any clear explanation for these. Note though that *ü > *i > *ä when not adjacent to a velar is not my idea; it was posited already by Steinitz (who supposed simple retention elsewhere, with *kü > *kʷä later only in non-Southern Mansi), per the ‘handle’, ‘fathom’ group. He calls the ‘coal’, ‘spit’ cases “expressive” … maybe feasible for the latter but hardly the former.

      The same consonant environment s_ľ in both seems like it could be involved somehow, but this does not immediately lead anywhere (I do not think we should be assuming an **sʷ or **lʷ).

  3. David Marjanović says:

    Hungarian […] öl- ‘to kill’

    Any connection to Tocharian? In the context that PIE *mer- didn’t mean “die”, but “disappear”, in Anatolian, I’ve read that Anatolian and Tocharian shared a root *wel- for “die”…

    • j. says:

      Who knows. This is from PU *-d₁- and not *-l-, but that may not rule out a connection entirely. Note also Proto-Turkic *öl- ‘to kill’, which looks the closest to Hungarian specifically.

      • David Marjanović says:

        Oh, so the most parsimonious hypothesis is a loan from Turkic to Hungarian.

        • j. says:

          Nah, probably not. For one, to correct a mistake in what I wrote above: the Turkic word means ‘die’ and not ‘kill’, and the transitivity difference needs to be accounted for somehow. These are verbs that are for clear reasons usually kept quite well separate. (The Hung. for ‘die’ remains the native hal = Fi. kuole-.) For two, the lowering *ü > ö only took place in Hungarian around the 15th-17th century, long after the period of heavy Turkic influence. Before this Hungarian had no /ö/.

          So I suspect that if these are connected, it’s rather an old loan from early Ugric to Turkic. A separate Hungarian branch is just as old as the entire Turkic family, and contrary to the usual research paradigm, I suspect that at least some of the supposed “old Turkic loans in Hungarian” might be rather the inverse. Morphologically, a derivative *wid₁ä-lə- > *ülələ- > ? *üllə- ‘to become dead’ could quite well get interpreted as ‘to die’ in Turkic. Alas, there is no Hungarian ˣöll or the like to corroborate this idea though.

          The IE parallel complicates things a bit however. Looking up LIV, they reconstruct √welh₃- ‘to hit’ (thus in Hittite, Greek and Latin), and > ‘to die’ only in Tocharian, so I think we can rule out anything Nostratic at least.

          Actually, I also wonder if we could not have here also an Uralic loan in Tocharian. The IE connection seems to be one of those vague root etymologies, where a partial formal match is taken as grounds for an etymology, even though the semantics and exact morphology do not match. LIV notes that the Tocharian verb has “sekundäre Aniṭ-Charakter”, supposedly generalized from a thematic stem for which they give no comparative support.

  4. Blasius B. Blasebalg says:

    Just asking the most elementary question in this context …

    So I suppose that Uralic *i > Samoyedic *i everywhere, without the split?
    In contrast to the Ugric examples, where *ü, *i experience the same fate, only based on the immediate environment?

    Sorry in advance. ;-)

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