Stop voicing across Uralic: some musings

Finnish often gets used as an example of a language that does not contrast voiced and voiceless consonants. While this is not really correct for Standard Finnish (which at least prescribes all of the voiced stops /b d g/), it’s true for many dialects, especially in pre-modern times. [1] The same also holds for most reconstructions of Proto-Uralic and Proto-Finnic. A few times I’ve seen this even given as a typical feature of the Uralic languages. This much is not the case, though. The presence of voiced stops in the recorded Uralic languages varies, but generally tends towards inclusion.

  • No voiced stops:
    • Most spoken Finnish; Northern Karelian
    • Most of Ob-Ugric
    • Forest Nenets, Northern Selkup
  • Allophonic voiced stops:
    • Estonian (short stops optionally voiced medially)
    • Ingrian (voiced before sonorants)
    • older Mari (voiced after nasals)
    • some varieties of Ob-Ugric, at least Southern Khanty per some descriptions (voiced medially)
  • Phonemic voiced stops:
    • most Samic languages
    • most of Finnic: Standard Finnish, Livonian, Votic, Southern Karelian incl. Livvi, Ludian–Veps
    • all of Mordvinic
    • newer Mari
    • all of Permic
    • Hungarian
    • most of Samoyedic: Tundra Nenets, Enets, Nganasan, Southern Selkup, Kamassian, Mator

(The distribution of voiced sibilants such as /z/ is very similar, though they are additionally lacking in standard Finnish and in northern Samoyedic. They are however less important for the forthgoing points, so I will focus on the voiced stops.)

This might still be a higher proportion of languages without voiced stops than within most language families of the Old World, though. Within Indo-European I can only think of Tocharian; Icelandic and varieties of High German; Scottish Gaelic; and, per some views, much of Anatolian. Maybe one of the Eastern Iranian languages that are heavy on spirantization? Even outside IE, the only other national language examples I know of are Chinese (not even in its entirety; at least Wu and Min still preserve the Middle Chinese voiced stop series) and Mongolian. Continental Southeast Asia has plenty of languages that are short on voiced pulmonic stops proper, but these often “compensate” by having instead implosives or prenasalized voiced stops; e.g. Vietnamese with /ɓ ɗ/, Hmong with a full series from /ᵐb/ to /ᴺɢ/.

Reconstructions could be added to the picture as further data points of their own, e.g. Proto-Samic and Proto-Samoyedic are both reconstructed without any voiced stops. However, when we move from synchrony into history, it is probably more important to consider the origin of voiced stops. This shows variation as well, but some particular pathways crop up repeatedly:

  • *-P- > -B- (general voicing of original singleton stops):
    • Southern Sami
    • Finnic: Livonian, Ludian–Veps
    • Mordvinic
    • Tundra Nenets, Kamassian, Mator
  • *-P- > -P- ~ -B- (voicing of singleton stops through consonant gradation):
    • Kola Sami
    • probably Proto-Finnic
    • ? Southern Selkup
  • *-Đ- > *-B- (hardening of earlier voiced spirants):
    • Standard Finnish (*ð > /d/ only)
    • Votic (*ɣ > /g/ only)
    • newer Mari (†ð, †ɣ > /d/, /g/)
  • *-NP- > -B- (simplification of stop+nasal clusters):
    • most of Samic (Southern through Skolt); usually as geminate -BB-
    • Permic
    • Hungarian
    • Enets

You might notice that all of these apply word-medially only. I have also left some more complicated cases off the list for now.

One wildcard approach is Nganasan, where the two most widely established phonemic voiced stops /b/, /ď/ come typically from *w, *j and are unrelated to the original stop consonants. [g] only occurs natively as the equivalent of /k/ under consonant gradation; [d] is even more limited, found as the weak grade of /t/ in the cluster [nd], while between vowels the result is [ð]. (Due to loanwords both could be probably now considered phonemic in modern Nganasan, though strangely enough these kind of inventories seem to then call the dental phoneme /ð/ per its intervocalic allophone and not, as could be expected, /d/.) Also some /b/, /ď/ come by gradation from PU *p, *ś. Their strong grades though are not the corresponding voiceless stops, but instead, a few sound changes later, /x/ and /s/. [2]

A similar setup *w *j > /b dž/ is found also in Kamassian and Mator, in these accompanied though by regular medial voicing. *j > /ď/ alone is more common yet: this is standard in Southern Karelian and Ludian, and found also in some varieties of Veps, Mari, Udmurt and Enets, at least. I even recall reading about a dialect of Hungarian that does this, but I don’t have any good overviews of Hungarian dialectology on hand to double-check with.

This is all also from the POV of synchronic voiced stops. Medial voicing, gradation-related or not, has likely happened at some point in by far most Uralic languages, but this often continued on with further lenition. E.g. in Permic, intervocalic *-p- *-t- *-k- are all continued as zero, most likely with intermediate > *[b] *[d] *[g] > *[β] *[ð] *[ɣ]. In at least one case, two separate rounds of medial voicing have been involved: thus in Southern Karelian, which has both consonant gradation and general medial voicing, so that original singleton stops yield the alternations b ~ v, d ~ ∅, g ~ ∅. This continues earlier stop/spirant gradation: *p ~ *v, *t ~ *ð, *k ~ *ɣ, [3] which in turn is probably from even earlier voiceless/voiced gradation: *p ~ *b, *t ~ *d, *k ~ *g.

Something similar may be actually the case in Permic. There’s reason to suspect that the full *-NP- to -B- shift was later than the lenition of medial single stops. Insted of filling in new voiced stops after the lenition of medial single stops to spirants, these clusters may have instead, in the first phase, filled in new voiceless stops already before the simplification of the original geminates. This is suggested by how a few late loanwords from Iranian still show *-NP- > -B- (/pad/ ‘crossroads’ ← Ir. *panta- ‘path’) but also seem to retain voiced stops as is (Udm. /vudor/ ~ Komi /vurd/ ‘otter’ ← Ir. *udra-); even Indo-Iranian voiceless stops can be continued as voiced (Udm. /kureg/ ~ Komi /kurɤg/ ‘hen’ ← Ir. or II *karka-; per *a > /u/ this must be an older loan than the previous two). So perhaps words of this group were all originally borrowed with simple voiceless stops (*pantɜ or *päntɜ > *patɜ, *vutrɜ, *karäkɜ > *kurekɜ), and they then went through a second round of medial lenition in late Proto-Permic, before the fall of final vowels (> *padɜ, *vudrɜ, *kuregɜ > *pad, *vudr, *kureg)? On the other hand, loaning from some Iranian variety with medial voicing is also conceivable, in the last case even an alternate analysis with *-eg as a suffix, and *rk > *r as in native vocabulary. (The epenthesis to *karäkɜ that would need to be assumed otherwise looks very sketchy, actually.)

I have even wondered if this could have been the same voicing process that affected Proto-Permic single voiceless stops after an unstressed syllable in mainline Komi, but not in Udmurt or Komi-Permyak (e.g. in the adjectival ending Udm. /-et/ ~ K /-ɤd/ ~ KPerm. /-ɤt/). But the fate of the original geminates suggests this is unlikely: since they yield modern Permic simple voiceless stops, same as everywhere from Veps on east, their shortening would have to be later than the voicing of any transient secondarily introduced medial voiceless stops. And it seems rather unparsimonious to assume geminates were still maintained as late as Proto-Komi.

Hungarian also has both *-P- > *-Đ- (*-p- *-t- > -v- -z-; *-k- > †-ɣ- > -v- ~ ∅) and *-NP- > -B-, but here we likely only need a single common round of medial voicing, followed by a chainshift of sorts of *-B- *-NB- to *-Đ- *-B-. Unlike Permic, new /-NP-/ or /-NB-/ clusters are established early-ish; though in loanwords from Iranian the only example seems to be kincs ‘treasure’ < pre-Hu *kenčɜ ← *gandz-. [4] Several others have correspondences elsewhere in Uralic, but I suspect these cases to be mostly loans / Wanderwörter rather than proper native inheritance. (They probably deserve to be more carefully looked at at some point, though.)

This big picture, I think, also raises some questions about the supposed retention of voiceless stops in a few languages.

I am not talking about any kind of a spin on the alternate reconstruction by Steinitz — who outright posited an original stop versus spirant contrast *-t- : *-ð-, instead of a gemination contrast *-tt- : *-t- (and, among the dentals, shunting *d₁ = traditional *ð then off as an absurd “retroflex spirant *δ̣”). This remains conclusively debunked by loanwords from Indo-European, whose voiceless stops turn up with traditional *-t- etc. (Indo-Iranian *ćata ‘100’ → *śëta > Hungarian száz, Erzya сядо /śado/, etc.), instead of Steinitz’ *-t- = traditional *-tt-. A weaker version of this could be perhaps still entertained: medial *-tt- : *-d- etc., but I don’t really see any particular benefit to it. In my opinion the situation found in Samic, Finnish–Karelian, Nganasan and perhaps Selkup can be still considered archaic, with all stop consonants voiceless by default, voiced (> lenited to non-stops in Finnish, Karelian and the immediately adjacent Sami varieties) at most under consonant gradation.

But the other four cases of Uralic languages without any voiced stops seem more dubious. To reiterate: (most of?) Mansi, (most of?) Khanty, Forest Nenets, Northern Selkup. These are all bundled together in western Siberia; the two latter have close relatives that do show medial voicing (i.e. Tundra Nenets and Southern Selkup); and even the former two are usually considered somewhat closely affiliated with Hungarian. Unlike Finnic and Samic, they also all show general shortening of geminates. In most Uralic languages this has been associated with earlier medial voicing, i.e. *-tt- : *-t- > *-tt- : *-d- > *-t- : *-d-, with the length contrast transphonologized as a voicing contrast, as is more common worldwide.

The languages have also gone through some non-general medial lenition: *-k- > *-ɣ- in Ob-Ugric (including even clusters such as *sk), and in Samoyedic *-k- is lost at least in *ə-stems (though not in all cases in *A-stems; established examples of retention include *pirkä < *pid₁kä ‘high’, *kåjkə < *kod₂ka ‘spirit’). In Far Eastern Khanty also *-p- > /-w-/. There is also some limited direct evidence of stop devoicing: like Nganasan, Kamassian and Mator, Selkup also fortites *w and *j — but all the way to voiceless *k, *ḱ.

So I suspect that voicelessness of all stop consonants, as could be proposed for Proto-Uralic, is not actually directly continued in these languages. This looks more like an areal feature, either an innovation wave that crossed a few language boundaries on its way, or subtrate influence. Direct influence from Forest Nenets or some extinct related variety seems possible for Northern Selkup, while in the case of Ob-Ugric, this is maybe more likely to to have been taken up from the original pre-Uralic substrate languages of the region.

This would also mean that degemination and medial voicing could be reconstructed as common Ugric features, if desired; with voicing developing further into spirantization in Hungarian, but eventually mostly reverted in Ob-Ugric. If so, this continues undermining further the notion of Ob-Ugric as a genetic subgroup within Uralic. Previous surveys by Honti and Viitso have not found any common innovations in the languages’ consonant systems other than the nearly trivial degemination, and several trivial shared retentions such as the maintenance of *w- as still /w-/. The evidence of Hungarian-Mansi isoglosses (e.g. *wi > *wü- > *ü-) and even Hungarian-Khanty ones (e.g. *d₂ > *j, further shared by Samoyedic) should also be weighed here: perhaps it is rather some of these that are old common inheritance after all, as has been suggested by various people at various times.

[1] Note that /f/ versus /v/, a contrast fairly widely established in western dialects, does not count as a voicing distinction: the latter is the approximant/semivowel [ʋ]. This is even treated as further equal to /u/ in some generative models of Finnish phonology. I write this as /v/ in broad transcription both for simplicity & following the traditional Uralistic transcription (which itself follows Finnish standard orthography), much like I also generally use /a ä/ instead of the IPA-compliant [ɑ æ].
[2] This also has, I think, implications for the reconstruction of the history of consonant gradation, since *z > /ď/ does not seem plausible. Either we have to date the emergence of consonant gradation between voiceless and voiced grades already into pre-Proto-Samoyedic (= effectively Proto-Uralic), with further ramifications; or, if we want to consider this pattern an innovation specific for Nganasan that never occurred in its close relatives (note in particular that while medial stops are generally lenited in Enets and Tundra Nenets, the same does not apply to /s/), then it is instead the loss of palatalization in *ś that must be also dated as post-Proto-Samoyedic. We would not need to assume an outright palatalized stop or affricate, though: a conceivable route to the modern situation would be *[ś] > [ś] ~ [ź] > [s] ~ [j]  > [s] ~ [ď]. Note also that while palatalized *kʲ > *ć in early common Samoyedic merges with /s/ in northern Smy, in southern Smy these have distinct reflexes /š/ and /s/, suggesting *ś > *s rather soon after PSmy, at the latest.
[3] Traditionally the labial spirant stage is given as [β], but to my knowledge, there is no evidence whatsoever anywhere in Finnic for a distinction between this and regular /v/ < *w; only for retained /b/ in Livonian and Ludian–Veps. Setälä conceived of the latter as a re-fortition from [β], but to me a marginal archaism that never went through a spirant stage seems more likely. It’s conceivable that the shift from *w to labiodental /v/ was not yet completed by the time of [b] > [β], and so this may have been immediately a merger, with [β] > [v ~ ʋ] only following later. The fact that several Finnish dialects are reported to have [w] for /v/ next to rounded vowels (e.g. in SE Tavastia [wuos] for vuosi ‘year’, [sywä] for syvä ‘deep’) may even support reconstructing [w] still for Proto-Finnic in some positions at least.
[4] Judging by the voiceless k and cs, this looks like one of those early loans where Proto-Iranian *c *dz (later > /s z/) were substituted by *č in Uralic, instead of anything directly related to the unexpected appearence of /dž/ in Persian گنج ganj.

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24 comments on “Stop voicing across Uralic: some musings
  1. David Marjanović says:


    I’m not sure about Faeroese and Norwegian; but Danish, to the extent that Danish still has plosives at all, only has voiceless ones.

    and varieties of High German;

    All of Upper German, excluding Carinthian (plus west of there into South Tyrol) which has reinterpreted its whole sound system in Slovene terms, but including Swiss and Austrian Standard German; and the southern half or so of Central German. Interestingly, while the unusually crowded OHG/MHG /Tː/-/T/-/D̥/ system has been reduced in several different ways, none of them involves voicing.* Even more interestingly, while intervocalic -/b/- > -/v/- is widespread, there’s no evidence of [b].

    * After wholesale reduction to a single series (a widespread megamerger known as binnendeutsche Konsonantenschwächung), one Thuringian dialect has developed medial voicing if I’ve understood the description correctly. Bizarrely, the book it’s in has vanished from Google Books.

    Even outside IE, the only other national language examples I know of are Chinese (not even in its entirety; at least Wu and Min still preserve the Middle Chinese voiced stop series)

    Wu does, except that the “voiced” and “plain voiceless” ones have also been called “stiff-voiced” and “slack-voiced” or perhaps vice versa (the sound files I’ve found just confuse me). Various Xiang dialects also keep the distinction to various extents, says Wikipedia. Min does not, though; its voiced plosives come from nasals!

    and Mongolian.

    And Tungusic.

    In Mongolic at least, it might not be terribly old. This Para-Mongolic inscription (further links all in English) used the P and B series of the Brahmi script, not the Pʰ and P series as I’d have expected. (…But then, it’s also completely devoid of i, so who knows what the scribe was thinking.)

    • j. says:

      Right, Danish, of course. Norwegian I’m pretty sure at least allows voiced realizations of its lenis series (but I would not dare to claim that this generalizes to all varieties).

      Min does not, though; its voiced plosives come from nasals!


      And Tungusic.

      I am under the impression that pretty much all of them have a basic voiced/voiceless contrast in stops. Also I don’t think any of them are national or even subnational languages of any sort.

  2. Crom Daba says:

    Mongolian is a very voiceless language but the gutturals are voiced.

    It seems like the lack of voicing used to be an areal feature across a part of Asia, earliest reconstructions of Yukaghir, Nivkh, Chukotko-Kamchatkan, Japanese, Korean and Mongolic all lack voiced stops, although some of them have voiced fricatives that could go back to stops.

    It’s hard to find good information for Tungusic, but at least we know that Evenki and Nanai are aspiration while Manchu and Udige are voicing based. Manchu and Udige are weird, but if we factor in Mongolic, Chinese and Nivkh influence perhaps an original voicing opposition is more likely.

    Turkic and Yeniseian break the pattern, although late Old Turkic technically also had no voiced stops.

    • j. says:

      It seems like the lack of voicing used to be an areal feature across a part of Asia

      I’ve earlier outlined reasons why I think this is not very solid for Yukaghir. For Japonic, is there any evidence for the *prenasalized stops being generally voiceless earlier?

      With Tungusic I’m mainly going off of some “Introduction to Tungusology” course materials by Janhunen, but I guess it would not surprize me terribly if the /t d/ etc. transcription were partly just a convention that glosses over phonetic details.

      General voicelessness of stop consonants seems to however continue quite organically into Northern America (most Eskaleut, most Na-Dene, pretty much the entire Pacific Northwest Sprachbund…). Many languages in this cluster have contrastive voicing in fricatives though, which I think suggests that at least some of those with contrastive aspiration probably developed it not too long ago from contrastive voicing. At least Nivkh seems like a clear case with its aspirated stop ~ voiceless fricative and nonaspirated stop ~ voiced fricative alternations.

      • Crom Daba says:

        Good post on Yukaghir, I wasn’t aware of the voicing distinction after resonants.

        I thought Proto-Japanese had nasal clusters rather than prenasalization (or rather that such analysis was preferrable), I guess they might have been allophonically voiced.

        Even’s stop contrast is described as in German by Benzing and as in Russian by Levin, but I don’t trust nothing until I see spectrograms.

        Janhunen also seems to prefer voicing for Mongolic, but I think it’s going out of fashion. Kane is certain that Khitan has voicing in /g/, but says that it’s uncertain for other stops (Huangdi is ), this is temptingly similar to the situation in Khalkha.

        I wonder what Shimunek says on this in his book on Xianbei, sadly they don’t have it in my library.
        As I’ve written before, I’m not convinced that Hüis Tolgoi is Mongolic so I won’t be updating my priors based on it.

        Voiced stops were probably present many times through histories of individual languages since sound changes that produce them are very common, but the tendency to spirantize or devoice them back quickly could be a more lasting tendency in the area.

        • David Marjanović says:

          I’ve come across a comparison of the Manchu alphabet and several transcriptions. The French one, from the 19th century, used p t k ph th kh, with no b d g. Given that French /b d g/ are reliably voiced, I think I should trust that. Trouble is, I can’t find that thing anymore. Probably it was on Eero Talvitie’s page, which is now completely empty.

          This paper in Japanese, which I can’t read*, is about a variety of Manchu spoken today. It explains the vowels, but not the consonants; yet, the transcriptions of Written Manchu (文語) in the table on p. 95 contain the clusters bk (twice) and kd; the modern variety of Sānjiāzi (三家子) shares bk in the same two words, while the correspondence to kd is xd. On the next page, Written bd corresponds to Sānjiāzi fd. All of that looks voiceless to me.

          Aspiration would of course explain why *p has become [f], [x], [h] and the like in several Tungusic languages.

          Manchu as sung on YouTube today has aspiration and no voice, but all of that could be a Chinese or Mongolian accent for all I know. Also, it’s actually three languages… I’ll let you know if I ever find that again.

          * Except for the English abstract at the very end, which reveals that the paper is about vowel harmony, which has a unique form in that village.

          Even’s stop contrast is described as in German by Benzing

          As in what kind of German! Sticking just with the standard: north: as in English (fortes aspirated wherever possible, glottalized elsewhere; lenes unreliably voiced); north-center: as in Dutch (or French, Russian, Japanese – no aspiration, no glottalization, lenes reliably voiced); south: neither aspiration nor glottalization nor voice, with a pure fortis-lenis contrast in the southeast and a length contrast (even in initial position) in the southwest.

          (Huangdi is )

          Didn’t work.

          As I’ve written before, I’m not convinced that Hüis Tolgoi is Mongolic

          Huh. Where did you write that?

          • David Marjanović says:

            Also, it’s actually three languages… I’ll let you know if I ever find that again.

            That was easy. Also, Jurchen from the Bureau of Translators and Jurchen from the Bureau of Interpreters belong to two different ones of these branches.

          • j. says:

            Aspiration would of course explain why *p has become [f], [x], [h] and the like in several Tungusic languages.

            It might, but this seems unnecessary when it can be considered a part of the General Northern Eurasian *p-fricativization zone. In the likes of Hungarian, Ossetic, Mator, Nganasan (and Japanese, though the change may be unrelated here) this clearly started from regular unaspirated /p/, most probably so also in Proto-Turkic.

            Given the geographic and contact linguistic facts, Manchu seems like the Tungusic variety or group most likely to have an aspiration contrast (Wikipedia agrees on this FWIW).

            • David Marjanović says:

              Wikipedia agrees on this FWIW

              Heh, somehow it never occurred to me to check there! I love, though, how the description of the vowel system has nothing to do with the chart next to it. :-)

              The paper I linked to agrees on voicelessness & aspiration, too.

              this clearly started from regular unaspirated /p/, most probably so also in Proto-Turkic.

              I still find that hard to imagine. Aren’t Turkic fortes at least a bit aspirated, like Arabic ones? And since when does Ossetic have its Caucasus-type consonant system?

              • j. says:

                since when does Ossetic have its Caucasus-type consonant system?

                Dunno exactly, but actually getting nestled in the Caucasus makes for a terminus post quem, while *p > /f/ already turns up in Greek transcriptions of Scythian names in the 1st millennium BCE.

                • David Marjanović says:

                  Greek didn’t have a /f/ in the 1st millennium BCE… there’s a PILIPPHVS on a wall in Pompeii where evidently an unaspirating Roman couldn’t remember where the aspiration went, and decided to put it in the already “stronger” position. The first FILIPPVS shows up about 100 years after Pompeii went under.

                  Back to Tungusic – and Samoyedic: footnote 30 of this paper mentions “Kamass phigije, which is a loan from Tungusic *pige- ‘kite, hawk’ (> Evenki hiγe, hiγēčēn [Ante Aikio, p.c.])”.

                • j. says:

                  Back to Tungusic – and Samoyedic: footnote 30 of this paper mentions “Kamass phigije, which is a loan from Tungusic *pige- ‘kite, hawk’

                  I think I forgot about this line. That’s Kamassian as usual: I believe there is basically a general allophonic rule of aspirating voiceless stops initially. Some native examples: phì ‘stone’, phiel ‘side’, phidä ‘nest’; khōlă ‘fish’, khujʉ ‘birch’, khʉmɛn ‘how many’; than ‘thou’, thumu ‘mouse’, thenze ‘lizard’ (PSmy *pəj, *pälä, *petä, *kålä, *koəj, *ku-, *tən, *təmå, *tånsə).

                  (hmm, as an aside, this khʉmɛn sure looks like it would incorporate a Samoyedic cognate for western Uralic *monə ‘many’, often taken as an IE loan…)

                • David Marjanović says:

                  That’s Kamassian as usual: I believe there is basically a general allophonic rule of aspirating voiceless stops initially.

                  The question then becomes whether that’s an areal feature.

                  hmm, as an aside, this khʉmɛn sure looks like it would incorporate a Samoyedic cognate for western Uralic *monə ‘many’, often taken as an IE loan…

                  Also, I’d be grossly negligent if I didn’t jump to the conclusion of *kumən – *tumən “how many – that many > 10,000”.

                • j. says:

                  The question then becomes whether that’s an areal feature.

                  Sure is, but in the first place from Siberian Turkic (Khakas, Tuvan, etc.), their main contact languages and eventual successors.

                  Also, while looking something else about it up today, I ran into the fun fact that “Kamassian” is apparently analyzable as part of a triplet of ethonyms: Kamas ‘Mountain Az‘, Karagas ‘Black Az’ or ‘Plains Az’, Khakas ‘White Az’. Thus Simoncsics in the 1998 handbook on Uralic, with reference to Hajdú (though the Turkic for ‘white’ is *āk, not **xāk, so I think someone must be getting something wrong here).

                • There is surely something wrong here: Khakas is an artificial ethnonym that appeared after the revolution of 1917. It was taken from an 8th century Chinese transcription of the name Kyrgyz, because the Khakas apparently descend from Yenisei Kyrgyz. Khakas’s endonym is tadar.

          • Crom Daba says:

            Gruzdeva claims that Manchu has a voicing distinction, and there are special characters for Chinese and Sanskirt aspirated stops. On the other hand, Xibe seems to be aspiration based.

            Didn’t work.

            It was “hong.di” inside angle brackets.

            Huh. Where did you write that?

            Click on my name.

            • David Marjanović says:

              First rule of the Internet: everything between angle brackets is interpreted as an HTML tag, and if it’s not identical to an allowed HTML tag it is summarily deleted.

              Thanks for pointing me to your blog! I had overlooked it and will try to read regularly.

  3. “Previous surveys by Honti and Viitso have not found any common innovations in the languages’ consonant systems other than the nearly trivial degemination”
    What about the metathesis *-lk- > *-γl-?

    • j. says:

      Neither of them comments on this for some reason in their main articles on this (Honti in Az ugor alapnyelv kérdéséhez, Viitso in his CIFU 8 and 9 contributions). Conceivably this may have been shared with also Hungarian, and Häkkinen suggests even Samoyedic (*lk > ɣl, and then only coda *ɣ is lost, while onset *k remains).

      • If this change was shared with Hungarian, one would expect PU *Vlk > *Vɣl > Hung ól / ől. Instead we have ll or l without traces of pre-Hungarian preconsonantal *ɣ. Moreover, dialectal forms such as tolv- (lit. toll) ‘feather’ point rather to pre-Hungarian *lɣ.
        Häkkinen also postulates proto-East-Uralic *sk > *ɣʟ and *śk > *ɣs. The first change is shared by Ob-Ugric and Permic, but I see no positive evidence in favour of its presence in Hungarian or Samoyed. I do not think that the second change, *śk > *ɣs, happened in Hungarian: cf. PU *mośki- ‘wash’ > Hung. mos- with PU *sükśi ‘autumn’ > Hung. ősz.

        • j. says:

          I suspect ősz to rather continue the trisyllabic variant *sükəśə as seen in Karelian šykyšy etc., similarly maybe nyust ‘marten’ < *ńokəśə > Fi. nois, Es. nugis. Contrast *ks > ∅ in máj ‘liver’, *kš > h in méh ‘bee’ (not ˣmój, ˣmőh). That is, actually only *-VɣV- > ó, ő / ú, ű. *k in clusters with obstruents seems IMO likely to have been simply lost, not lenited to *ɣ at all, cf. also *kt > Mansi *-kt- ~ Khanty *-kət- > *-ɣət-.

          Variants like tolv- will require *tulɣ- for sure, but standard Hungarian allows this stem type as well (daru : darva- ‘crane’, falu : falva- ‘village’; no variants ˣdarr, ˣfall are attested AFAIK). I don’t think we can reconstruct Old Hungarian *lw versus *lɣ to account for the contrast between these and the toll type, since original *lw regularly just > l (tél ‘winter’), and secondary labialization similar to Mansi *pëëwəl would seem to have to presuppose metathesis. I would hypothesize that cases like toll ~ tolv- go back to *tuɣl- ~ *tulɣ- in the Old Hungarian era, either as dialectal or somehow conditional doublets.

          But I would also want to know what the exact dialect distribution is before drawing too many conclusions from the dialectal Hungarian material. UEW’s unlabelled lists of dialect forms are not too helpful.

          • By the way, there is an interesting difference in Mansi between PU *kt > PMs *kt and PU *ks > PMs *ɣt/*wt.
            I have not yet delved into the matter of Hungarian dialect distribution, but the provenance of the forms listed in UEW can be found in J. Szinnyei’s “Magyar tájszótár”, available here (toll is on pp. 750-751 of the second volume).

  4. In Welsh the stop series ptc and bdg are differentiated mainly by the presence or absence of aspiration, not voicing.

    • David Marjanović says:

      Possibly for longer than English, actually: Welsh characters in Shakespeare etc. don’t use b d g, and Dafydd > Taffy.

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