Bonus Material 2017

A little recap of history: Freelance Reconstruction, the blog you’re currently reading, [1] was originally started as a Tumblr microblog. It turned out though that my blogging style needs a sturdier framework, and for several years now, I’ve been happy to be based on WordPress instead.

This much some old readers may recall. However I never have gotten much into doing quick-paced community engagement blogging on here, in part indeed due to the heavier-duty software. And since I still hang out on Tumblr for unrelated reasons, I’ve also found it useful to have an outlet to comment on things related to linguistics that come up in there.

Thus, enter a new, more casual linguistics sideblog: This has been running for a bit over a year by now, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned anything about it earlier on here. Perhaps I should also request that anon asks be redirected there instead of the old defunct version of this blog?

Here is also a list of some posts on there that might be of interest to the readers on here as well.

1. Original blog posts and commentary on topics:

— on the structure and history of Finnish:

— on Uralic linguistics in general:

— on phonological fun facts and typology:

— other stuff:

2. Links to other blogs, articles etc. without much additional insights of my own:

[1] I’ve seen this blog occasionally linked under the name “Protouralic”, but to be exact, that is only my blog’s URL, not the title. The discrepancy is mainly since I can foresee maintaining this blog long enough that I will no longer be doing freelance reconstruction… It remains to be seen what the blog will be renamed at that point, though.

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27 comments on “Bonus Material 2017
  1. j. says:

    Additionally, people who read comments on blogs might be interested in checking out an ongoing mini-debate on linguistic classification that I also participate in, over at the Languagehat post Origins of the Japanese language.

  2. David Marjanović says:

    Hey! It’s 1 am, and I stayed up late yesterday!

  3. David Marjanović says:

    phonemic syllable breaks in Finnish – I find nothing mysterious about vowel clusters, including sequences of identical vowels that don’t contract to a long vowel. All over (at least) Central and South Bavarian, /aˈɛi/, /iˈɛa/ and /aˈɛia/ – each with as many syllables as vowels, none with inserted glottal stops or anything – are grammatical near-sentences.

    sisaruksetGeschwister! “Siblings” (rarely also as a backformed singular) formed as a collective from “sister”. Gebrüder is obsolete and only ever meant specifically “brothers” AFAICT.

    flap = one-contact trill – no! The American flap sounds rather different from the one-contact trills scattered over the world, even the one used for intervocalic /r/ in early-20th-century RP. It isn’t articulated the same way either.

    Pronoun borrowing in colloquial Vietnamese – also Thai (me, you) for the same reason.

  4. j. says:

    flap = one-contact trill – no! The American flap sounds rather different from the one-contact trills scattered over the world,

    That’s the point: the American English allophone of /t/ is not a flap, but rather a tap (if we define “flap” as a single-contant trill vs. “tap” as an overshort plosive — apparently confusion on which would be which is common).

    • David Marjanović says:

      I’d say these are three different things, not two; in the American /t d/ allophone, the tongue flaps past the alveolar ridge instead of staying there and building pressure. Admittedly, I don’t know if overshort plosives really exist.

  5. David Marjanović says:

    Forgot yesterday: deriving the Proto-Iranian prevocalic *f *θ *x directly from *pH *tH *kH by the usual preconsonantal fricativization is phonetically implausible, no matter whether *H was something like [x] or something like [h]. Rather, voiceless aspirates becoming fricatives may be an argument for dating the loss of voiced aspiration earlier than the fricativization of the voiceless aspirates.

  6. Crom daba says:

    Another problem is that Saka doesn’t fricativize *TH clusters, instead it has voiceless aspirates, Balochi and Wakhi also have voiceless stops in this position, although it might be later spirant hardening in the case of Balochi (and Wakhi is possibly related to Saka).

    • David Marjanović says:

      How were the fricatives written in Saka?

      • j. says:

        As Brahmi script aspirates, as far as I know (also, /tsʰ tʂʰ/ as ‹ts kṣ›).

        Kümmel has a proposal that, before the general loss of voiced aspirates, there was an “aspiration throwback” change where *T-NDʰ > *Tʰ-ND. This at least would require the fricativization of *Tʰ, which would be surely also the best routing for *TH.

  7. Crom daba says:

    On further review of Bailey’s dictionary, it seems unlikely that Saka aspirates are retentions as Lubomir Novak states. I’m not sure how to explain words with /ch/ though, maybe Indic loans or secondary aspiration.

  8. David Marjanović says:

    I forgot my favorite example of a phonemic syllable break! It’s a minimal pair in most Standard German accents: Karl /ˈkaːl̩/, kahl /kaːl/.

    Unfortunately Charles the Bald doesn’t exhibit it, due to adjective declension: Karl der Kahle.

  9. David Marjanović says:

    kaali – talking about German opens a can of Pieris caterpillars! There’s a lot of regional variation. In Austria, Kohl is specifically Savoy cabbage, which is called Wirsing in northern Germany, plus lots of other names elsewhere. Brussels sprouts are Kohlsprossen (pl.) or sometimes Sprossenkohl (sg.), cauliflower is Karfiol (final stress), and kale remains largely unknown. White and red cabbage end in -kraut rather than -kohl, same pattern as for Sauerkraut (Sauerkohl far enough north).

    Also, sour cherries are Sauerkirschen down north, but Weichseln in Austria.

  10. David Marjanović says:

    Preadaptation post: well, that’s exactly why we biologists have followed S. J. Gould’s advice and switched from saying “A was a preadaptation for B” to “B is an exaptation of A” – the use of A for a new function to which it wasn’t originally an adaptation.

    The ghits for exaptation number “about 177,000”.

  11. David Marjanović says:

    Post on random disappearance of rare phonemes & clusters: rarity can apparently trigger sound change. Words beginning with */dw/ are rare throughout Germanic. In Old and Middle High German that regularly became /tw/, but more and more of the few words were lost. Finally, almost all of the remainder were moved over to the most similar more common cluster, /tsv/, while the rest joined /kv/. There’s an etymological doublet: quer “transverse”, Zwerchfell “diaphragm” (in anatomy).

    I’m sure the northern word for cottage cheese, Quark, is from (something like) Polish twaróg [ˈtvaruk] (same meaning).

  12. David Marjanović says:

    Post on rock-paper-scissors (I should start adding links): in German it’s Schere, Stein, Papier, probably to keep a trochaic rhythm. – Compare further: rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock.

    Post on voiced and voiceless plosives switching places: “the comparatively rare voicinɡ of ɡlottalised consonants, apparently attested by the Nakh languages” – in the Caucasus area, ejectives are lenes with barely audible glottalization, so it’s not surprising that they sometimes become voiced pulmonic plosives in voiced environments.

    Post on Mitian: I’ll have to look up what the EDAL proposes about Turkic *b-, but it’s interesting in this context that the Inuit-Yupik 1sg pronoun has *v- (no idea about Aleutian). The 2sg *s- is in any case unexpected, but then most of Greek has sy which is irregular enough that we can only wave our hands about dû à la fréquence or something. – Good to know that shifts of meaning between “spirit, soul” and “brain” are attested, and not everyone has been looking in the heart or the spleen or somewhere!

    • David Marjanović says:

      Silly me. The EDAL says nothing about where Altaic comes from, so it simply takes the 1sg *b- for granted and doesn’t try to explain it. PA *m- > PT *b- is considered regular, with a pretty long list of examples. Within Turkic, we get (p. 145): “In most languages (except Tur. and Gag.) > m- before a following nasal, with slightly differing rules. The same is true for (*-p-) > *-b- > *-m- in the second syllable.”

  13. David Marjanović says:

    Also Mitian post:

    Apparently there are a few Spanish words that are, in some dialects, undergoing semantic drift toward their English cognates…

    For rare words that happens all the time. German realisieren has within living memory picked up the meaning “getting it” from English.

  14. David Marjanović says:

    In SUSA 96, the link to “New evidence on Para-Mongolic numerals” is broken. I figured out what’s wrong: this link works.

    • David Marjanović says:

      And a fascinating paper it is! The labels “Manchu” and “Jurchen” were hiding three languages instead of one!

      From footnote 2:

      […] kǝrdǝm is a Mongolic loanword ultimately of Turkic origin. Among modern Turkic languages only Khalaj här ‘man’ shows that there must have been an initial h- which may have a connection to Alchuka k-. Problematically, the consonant does not appear in Mongolic and the initial h- in Turkic is thought to go back to an older *p- (Doerfer 1985: 99, 1998: 280f.).

      I wonder if this word went in the other direction and was spread by the Avars.

      • j. says:

        I could suggest that the Turkic word is perhaps in turn borrowed from a preform of Hungarian férj ‘man’. The usual explanation is that this is an entirely native compound of two unproductive terms, fi- (beside fiú ‘boy’ < *pojə-ka) plus erj ‘man’.

        The latter component though is poorly attested elsewhere in Uralic (a clear cognate in Mari plus an unclear one in Finnish), and borrowing from Turkic has been suggested too, which seems like the better way to resolve this loop.

        • David Marjanović says:

          So, the word made a Turkic-Hungarian-Turkic roundtrip just to pick up a h-? :-) Why not, there are English words of ultimately Frankish origin that did similar things.

          I happened to find Khalaj här on p. 27 of the EDAL:

          “However, there is a significant number of cases where Khalaj has initial h- which appears to be an innovation (prothesis), cf.: Khal. hil- ‘to die’ < PT *öl < PA *oli; Khal. här ‘man’ < PT *ēr < PA *ā́ri;” and 26 further examples. “One may note that this prothetic h- is very frequent before long vowels and before the following -j-, -v-. However, the rules are not strict, and in general the emergence of h- in Khalaj is unpredictable. Absence of h- in Khalaj is therefore an almost certain sign of *0- (or *ŋ-) in Altaic, but its presence may be original or secondary. We shall thus continue to use PT forms without initial *h- (keeping in mind though that it was probably present in the system) – given that the reconstruction of *h- can be made only on Khalaj data, and the latter is often quite ambiguous.”

          Incidentally, hil- “to die” is also found, in exactly identical form, in Basque – an eerie reminder that coincidences happen.

          • j. says:

            No, I mean, it’s not possible for Turkic *(h)er to be both a loan from Hu. férj, and for that to originate as a compound where the latter part is a loan from the same Turkic word, so at least one of these etymologies has to be off. A supposed Uralic etymon that only has reliable reflexes in Mari and Hungarian smells very much like something that came from Turkic, too.

            The alleged Finnish cognate is a rare dialect term yrkä ‘young man’, but /y/ doesn’t match (Mari /erɣə/ and the Hu. point to *är(k)V) and this seems more likely to be a local variant of ylkä ‘groom’.

  15. David Marjanović says:

    The link to the paper on vatsa and vatsá- is also broken; fortunately, the correct URL is obvious.

    In that interesting paper, BTW, Parpola should have stayed away from the technobabble. “With 19 radiocarbon dates, the duration of the Sejma-Turbino network was fixed to 2150–1600 BCE (with sigma 1 calibration)” – reverse hull polarity and set the shields to an oscillating frequency! Rather, σ is the standard deviation, and all dates from 2150 to 1600 BCE are within 1 σ of the mean estimate. In other words, the probability that the true date lies outside that range is close to a third.

    (Except it’s not anymore, because now – as the rest of the sentence makes clear – there are 38 dates, so that the range – presumably 1 σ again – has narrowed down to “c. 2200–1900 BCE”.)

  16. David Marjanović says:

    Post on West Germanic diphthongizations:

    My suspicion — just a hunch so far — is that what is going on here is that West Germanic vowel phonology is organized differently from the other languages in Europe, and it is this that drives all these high close diphthongizations. Something along the lines of closing diphthongs being single phonemes sharing the feature [+high] with close vowels, maybe, instead of closing diphthongs being absent (Slavic) or remaining analyzable as vowel + glide (NGmc, Romance, Baltic, Hungarian, Samic, Finnic, Iranian…)? This would mean that something like /əi əu/ have for long been “conceptually possible” in West Germanic phonology, and therefore available as something that /iː uː/ could change into without too much disturbance.

    Specifically, phonologists and historical linguists tend to treat closing diphthongs and closed syllables in -Vj, -Vw as the same thing, and likewise for opening dipthongs and (C)jV-, (C)wV-. Indeed, closing diphthongs and closed syllables in -j, -w aren’t known to contrast anywhere in the world… except in Central Franconian, e.g. the dialect of Maastricht, which is about as central as you can get in West Germanic.

    West Germanic is also particularly rich in centering diphthongs. Those created by non-rhoticity have mostly been monophthongized in English and (except word-finally) northern German, but southern German keeps those (except that Switzerland remains rhotic) plus, in the dialects, the ones created from breaking of */eː oː/ over 1000 years earlier! Any interpretation of such things as [ɪɐ̯ ʊɐ̯] as beginning or ending with a consonant when etymological /r/ is not available would have to be very abstract indeed.

    So, perhaps the trick is that West Germanic really has diphthongs all the way down, while just about everyone else just has vowels next to /j w/.

    BTW, Zeh m. is not quite standard; unambiguously standard is Zehe f.. Interestingly, my dialect seems to mix those: [ˈt͡sɛçŋ̩] m. (vowel length not phonemic, feminine -e often corresponding to -/N/ probably by generalization from everywhere else to the nom. sg.).

    • j. says:

      Closing diphthongs and closed syllables in -j, -w aren’t known to contrast anywhere in the world… except in Central Franconian

      I know a guy whose idiolect of French would allegedly contrast these ( /ai/ versus aille /aj/, etc.), though I am not convinced it isn’t simply a syllabification contrast.

      BTW, Zeh m. is not quite standard; unambiguously standard is Zehe

      I initially wrote Zehe, then checked Wiktionary to be sure I’m not misremembering the spelling, and their slightly confusingly worded usage note claims that Zeh would be the more widespread variant.

      • David Marjanović says:

        Ah, the source the English Wiktionary used is the Atlas der deutschen Alltagssprache, where 1) many respondents probably gave forms they themselves wouldn’t necessarily accept as standard, and 2) many respondents were probably confused whether they were asked for standard or dialect forms, because the standard doesn’t have a colloquial register everywhere, yet that seems to be a basic assumption behind asking for Alltagssprache “everyday language”.

        The German Wiktionary calls Zeh “as a tendency mostly northern” and Zehe “as a tendency mostly central and southern”. Apocope is a northern and southern thing, so maybe that was correct at some point.

    • David Marjanović says:

      Terminus ante quem for underlying diphthongs: the reinterpretation of *Vjj, *Vww as *Vij, *Vuw.

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