Some Recent Vogulology

(By current standards this perhaps should be “Mansilogy” or “Mansi Studies”, but “Vogulology” just has a good sound to my ear.)

1. Word-final vowels

This summer has seen the publication of the Festschrift Ёмас сымыӈ нэ̄кве во̄ртур э̄тпост самын патум [1] dedicated to our (i.e. of Finno-Ugric Studies at University of Helsinki [2]) professor Ulla-Maija Forsberg / née Kulonen. This includes my paper “Notes on Proto-Mansi word-final vocalism“, where I mostly focus on the somewhat elusive category of Proto-Mansi *ə-stems. These can be consistently directly distinguished from plain consonant stems only in 18th century Mansi records from assorted southerly dialects, but I argue that their former existence however leaves indirect evidence in a fairly large number of places.

  • They condition / phonemicize the rise of the new vowel length split in Central Mansi (as first recognized by Mikhail Zhivlov): originally long in open syllables, short in closed syllables, thus *CVCə > /CVːC/, but *CVC > /CVC/.
  • Coda spirantization of *k in Central Mansi takes place already before apocope: *CV(C)kə > /CV(C)k/, but *CV(C)k > /CV(C)x/, and *CVkCə > /CVx[ə]C/, but *CVkC > /CVːk[ə]C/ (probably *CVk[ə]C already to begin with).
  • Nasal cluster simplification also takes place already before apocope: in Southern and Central Mansi *CVNTə > /CVNT/, but *CVNT > /CVT/, affecting all nasal+obstruent clusters (in Southern further *CVŋkə > *CVŋk > /CVŋ/); in Northern Mansi only *CVNF > /CVF/, affecting only the nasal+fricative clusters *nč > *nš, *ńć > *ńś, and (though I ended up forgetting this from the paper) *ŋq > *ŋχ.
  • Conditional retentions: Southern Mansi *CEĆə > /CEĆiː/ (i.e. *ə > /iː/ following palatal vowel + palatal consonant); possibly Northern Mansi *CU(C)Cə > /CU(C)Ci/ (i.e *ə > /i/ following a close vowel = /u/ or /i/).

There are some complications to the first three lines of evidence, since they only affect / happen before coda consonants. They therefore create new morphological alternations in inflected stems, such as *pōt ‘pot’ : *pōt-ət ‘pots’ [3] >> Western Mansi /put/ : /puːtət/. Later on, these alternations have often been levelled out in favor of one “grade” or the other in individual dialects. This is probably the reason for occasional apparent irregularities such as *kōnt ‘backpack’ > Pelym /kunt/ (rather than expected ˣ/kut/), although I have not combed for them in detail. — This would really require also a discussion of the same changes in verb inflection and word derivation, where they can arise also depending on consonant-initial versus consonant-final suffixes. At least //NF// simplification in Northern Mansi is well-described in standard references already (e.g. Keresztes’ 1998 handbook description mentions the examples ľuuńś-i ‘weeps’, suns-i ‘looks’, χaaŋχ-i ‘climbs’ : ľuuś-səm ‘I wept’, sus-səm ‘I looked’, χaaχ-səm ‘I climbed’). Eichinger’s new grammar of Western Mansi (see below) recognizes all three of vowel length alternation, //NC// simplification and x ~ k alternation, the last interestingly in an inverted form from the historical derivation: stem-final //x// → k before a vowel-initial suffix. For the rest I would need to look up a variety of sources and see how much of this they recognize.

There would be also some implications whose discussion I have left for later work altogether. E.g. the loss of *-ə appears to leave Central Mansi /x/ in fact marginally phonemic in all varieties. However, it has been treated as only a free variant in some (chiefly Hungarian) works. The most notable offender is the UEW, where e.g. Pelym /kulx/ ([kuləx]) ‘raven’ is given as “kulk“; /ńoxʷs/ ‘sable’ is given as “ńoks“; /püxń/ ([püxəń]) ‘navel’ is given as “pükəń” (note also inconsistent treatment of schwa). Thus, there is a lesson here against trying to apply overly strict methodology to the segmental phonological analysis of poorly documented language varieties. The limited corpus of Central Mansi varieties may not have allowed finding minimal pairs, but this should not be taken as grounds to ignore the distinction entirely. This problem has come up before in phonological analyses of Ob-Ugric varieties as well. Other such cases include e.g. the status of labialized velars /kʷ xʷ ŋʷ/ all across Mansi, discussed already by Kálmán (1976) [4], the short vowels /e ɶ ɤ u/ in Eastern Mansi and the open rounded vowels /ɔ œ/ in Far Eastern Khanty.

2. Archival Mansi

Julia Normanskaja has in the last few years published reports and analyses of several archival materials of Mansi in the journal Ural-Altaic Studies (now added to my sidebar). The earliest came out in volume 19 (4/2015), covering a 1905 dictionary of the Pelym dialect as well as new 2013 field records on the Middle Ob and Jukonda dialects — the latter perhaps the last records of Eastern Mansi, collected from two recently found elderly speakers. Instead of integrating these with the established framework of Mansi historical phonology though, she has opted to compare them only with the Sosva-based Northern Mansi written standard, ending up with a very reduced seven-vowel reconstruction of Proto-Mansi or maybe rather Proto-Non-Southern Mansi (“core Mansi” as I have called it) that unfortunately doesn’t seem to be very functional for anything else. A follow-up article in volume 26 (3/2017) explores the Pelym material a bit more, but it does not turn out to show any previously unknown features at least in its phonology. Presumably it would have more value for the lexical documentation of Mansi, perhaps even for etymological research.

Two further works this year I have found more interesting. In volume 36 (1/2020) she treats an unpublished 18th century Mansi dictionary that appears to not fit within the current classification scheme of Mansi: it shows some innovations typical for Northern Mansi (*kʷä- > ко-, *aɣ > оу, *q > х) but fails to show some others (*ä, *š retained as е, ш instead of being simplified to a, s). Even transitional development can be found in по́улъколъ ‘bathhouse’: *äɣ > оу here is distinct from the reflexes in all later dialects (S päwl-, W E päɣl-, N puwl- ‘to bathe’). Specifically non-Northern innovations do not seem to be found though, and I at least would thus simply consider this variety to represent early Northern Mansi before the rise of some more recent innovations. A brief comparison with the older Mansi materials available to me does show the same archaisms in some other early NMs records as well, e.g. *šëëtə > schat ‘100’ (later > sāt).

Most recently, volume 38 (3/2020) now treats several further 18th-century wordlists, namely some very southwestern ones from within the current-day Perm Krai, which she identifies as their own dialect group, though still affiliated with the Tavda dialect that has later on been the “type specimen” of Southern Mansi. I cannot agree with all aspects of her analysis here — e.g. graphical ‹а› for Proto-Mansi *ëë I would think most probably only reflects an inability of 18th-century Russians/Germans to distinguish [ʌː] and [ɑː] — but the overall point seems to be sound: the dialect differentiation of Mansi can be expected to have begun already in the south. A feature that does appear to constitute a shared innovation is the lowering of short *u to ‹о›, but probably this is not yet enough by itself to set up much of a common Southern Mansi dialect area covering both these and Tavda.

2.5. A *č in Proto-Mansi?

All this attention to 18th century Mansi also got me started on assembling an overall overview of the data. Most of it is still not published anywhere, but Gulya’s 1960 article first noting the retention of final vowels [5] cites seemingly all available evidence for a list of about 100 words. This could already have some value for surveying in more detail the development of the Mansi dialect areas over the 18th and 19th centuries.

I can also already submit one initial observation: a few varieties seem to show an affricate, ‹ч› or ‹tsch›, corresponding to usual Proto-Mansi *š. Even more interestingly, this seems to only happen for *š deriving from Uralic *č, not for *š deriving from Uralic *ś (or *ć, as now alternately reconstructed):

  • ‘knee’: M19 ‹tschäntschi›, VTur. ‹ча(н)чи›, SSo. ‹Tschândsche-›
    — cf. Khanty *čäänč;
  • ‘town’: VTur. ‹оча›, SSo. ‹ootsche› (M19 ‹óscha›)
    — cf. Khanty *waač;
  • ‘100’: M19 ‹schäta›, VTur. ‹шата›, SSo. ‹Schôtt›, ‹Schätte›
    — cf. Khanty *saat;
  • ‘heart’: M19 ‹schìima›, VTur. ‹шимъ›, SSo. ‹Schinn› [sic]
    — cf. Khanty *säm.

I would think that this is therefore an archaism: Proto-Mansi had both *č and *š, retained in these three varieties [6] but merged as *š in the others. This of course makes me particularly interested in getting my hands on fuller versions of these three sources in particular and seeing if the pattern keeps up.

3. Three Western Mansi Grammars

I recently discovered also Victoria Eichinger’s PhD thesis “Westmansisch anhand der Textsammlungen von Munkácsi und Kannisto” from 2017. As per the title, this is not an up-to-date language-documentation study but instead a slightly more philological analysis, based on late 19th / very early 20th century fieldwork on the language. It’s a good addition to Mansi grammaticography too, as the now-extinct western dialects have not been subject to much discussion. For an analysis of limited materials it’s fairly thorough, treating also topics that have been mostly left on little attention so far, e.g. morphophonology (the still-living Northern Mansi has much less of this anyway than Western Mansi did). The organization into alternating chapters on the Pelym and Middle Lozva dialects is a bit jarring at first, but seems justifiable enough, especially given brief comparison chapters at the end of each section. The other three WMs dialects thet were recorded more fragmentarily by Munkácsi and Kannisto are generally left out, not a bad option in a generally synchronic grammar. [7] (I do think at least their phonology would eventually deserve a more detailed historical analysis though than what has been done so far.) They only make a small appearence towards the end where Eichinger outlines the main morphological differences between Western and Northern Mansi, even then in a more contrastive than comparative fashion. She does regardless show that parts of a list of seven features that has been suggested to define WMs in earlier research are insufficient, and proposes an amended version.

To me it seems though that even a few of the features given by Eichinger should be still removed from consideration. Two repeating issues are retained archaisms (e.g. accusative case) or heterogeneity (e.g. replacement of the ablative with either postpositions or the lative). Also a bigger open question still might be the direction of comparison. Distinguishing Western and Northern Mansi still remains quite easy. The closest affinity of WMs is instead with Eastern Mansi, forming the Central Mansi group, and among the traditional four-way division of the Mansi varieties, it is the West / East distinction that appears to me to be mostly conventional and not that firmly established. There instead seems to be a cline of increasing innovativeness towards the west, overlaid also with contact effects from Komi and Khanty… It’s probably not necessary to assume the existence of either “Proto-Western” or “Proto-Eastern”, only a single “Proto-Central”. And if so, perhaps some different original dialect cleavage could be assumed for this instead? — At least we now have more good materials for eventually surveying this issue too.

[1] Northern Mansi: /jomas/ ‘good’, /sim-əŋ/ ‘heart-ADJ’, /neː-kʷe/ ‘woman-DIM’, /woːr-tuːr eːtpos-t/ ‘forest-lake month-LOC’ (also /eːt-pos/ ‘moon, month’ readily parses as ‘night-light’), /sam-ən pat-əm/ ‘eye-LAT begin-PTCP’, altogether: “Goodhearted girl born in August”.
[2] She is currently posted instead as the head of the Institute for Languages of Finland though, and has earlier spent quite a while also as the vice-rector of the university. I was happy to catch some of her Mansi courses taught between these some years ago however.
[3] Before anyone wonders in the comments: yes, these might be cognates, depending on how much you like explanations like deriving Northwest Germanic *pottaz from an unattested early Samic reflex of PU *pata (expected PS **pōtē > common Western Sami **puohtē) or anything going back to Indo-Uralic. No loan etymology from IE into all across Uralic seems to be possible though.
[4] Kálmán, Béla. 1976. “Van-e a labio-palatoveláris mássalhangzó-fonéma a vogulban?” — Nyelvtudományi Közlemények 78: 359–363.
[5] Gulya, János. 1960. “A manysi nyelv szóvégi magánhangzóinak történetéhez”. — Nyelvtudományi Közlemények 62: 33–50.
[6] VTur. = Verkhoturye, SSo. = Southern Sosva (Gulya’s “DSzo.”). As far as I can tell, he does not explicitly explain his abbreviation “M19” anywhere, but I think it might mean an unlabeled source, thus microfilm #19 out of the 24 wordlists his paper covers.
[7] The work does clue me in that also a similar Master’s thesis on the Northern Vagilsk dialect was prepared by Eichinger’s project colleague Anna Wolfauer.

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11 comments on “Some Recent Vogulology
  1. Re footnote 3: Indo-Uralic comparison is not a viable possibility here because *p- in Northwest Germanic *pottaz implies (nearly) non-existent PIE *b-. A better comparison would be Proto-Germanic *fata- ‘vat, vessel’ and Lithuanian púodas ‘pot’ from PIE *podo-. This etymon has a weak distribution in IE, but the fact that Lithuanian shows the effect of Winter’s law at least proves that it is not a recent loanword.

  2. David Marjanović says:

    I’ve been brainstorming about pot.

    Not only the *p, but also the *tt needs an explanation.

    The word is absent from High German, where “pot” is instead Topf, which looks funnily similar, but see below; so maybe pot spread much later than PNWGmc times.

    So perhaps the *tt is more of an etymological nativization of a Western Saami *ht.

    That said, consider the words pit and puddle; a cognate of the former with the meaning of the latter is present in parts of High German as Pfütze.

    All of these are reminiscent of bottom, whose *tt is explained through PIE nominative *bʰudʰmḗn, genitive *bʰudʰnós (loss of *-m- through the asnō rule) > PGmc *budmēn, *buttaz through Kluge’s law.

    If I’m not imagining things, a Topf is a Deep One: *dʰubʰnós > *duppaz. Maybe a pot is the bottom of the deep by some cross-contamination. Naturally, a Uralic word could have greatly contributed to that confusion: PNWGmc might have had all of *dopp-, *bott- and **pot- (“deep one”, “bottom” and the postulated loan), all with pot-related meanings (Ancient Greek πυθμήν means specifically “bottom of a cup or jar”, says Wiktionary).

    Or maybe the p really does come from a Pre-Germanic *b through the zero-grade of the “foot” word, */pd/- *[bd]-. Generalize the *b through the paradigm, send it through Grimm, and there you go. That might even explain the most dread “path” word, and French patte “paw” along with it. (“Paw” words across western Europe are a major headache.) The problem with this is that word-initial voiced plosives (aspirated or not) followed by another plosive don’t seem to have been tolerated in PIE; that’s recently been used to explain what the form *ped- is doing in so many environments where the zero-grade would be expected; *-bd- is found word-internally in a few fossilized compounds.

    • j. says:

      FWIW my own very tentative hypothesis is that the word might be a doublet via Nordwestblock of *fata- < *podo- (cf. Mikhail’s comment above).

      • David Marjanović says:

        Most of the other linguistic evidence for the Nordwestblock appears to have evaporated, but now I’m wondering if it was real and Crotonian (pdf)…

  3. an unpublished 18th century Mansi dictionary that appears to not fit within the current classification scheme of Mansi: it shows some innovations typical for Northern Mansi (*kʷä- > ко-, *aɣ > оу, *q > х) but fails to show some others (*ä, *š retained as е, ш instead of being simplified to a, s).

    In Munkácsi’s Northern Mansi material, *kʷä- yields kwo-, so this variety cannot be the direct ancestor of the variety described by Munkácsi. I do agree though that the dictionary simply represents an early Northern Mansi dialect, not some transitional form between Northern and Central Mansi.

    • j. says:

      I think it would have been possible to record /kʷo/ as also ‹ко›, ‹ko›. The rendering of labialization in early materials on Mansi is not especially consistent, e.g. for *räkʷ ‘rain’ (Gulya’s #12; probably not **räkʷə) there are forms like ‹ракъ›, ‹рагъ›, ‹раху› and even one of ‹рахп›, and *kʷälə ‘house’ (#29) is rendered from NMs as ‹kol›, ‹коль› and ‹кволь›. A majority of the WMs forms of this do use ‹ква-›, however with one case of each of also ‹куа-›, ‹кa-›, ‹ко-›.

      Does 20th–21st century data show any sign of /kʷo/ being used in some specific NMs dialect area? This is such a phonetically natural shift that, while I would not assume it to have coincidentally swept the entire dialect area precisely between Munkácsi and Kannisto (i.e. probably some speakers already had [ko] circa 1880 and/or some still had [kʷo] circa 1900), neither would I assume without clear evidence that it has existed as a geographic isogloss for centuries, or at all.

      • David Marjanović says:

        I’m reminded of scattered Americans losing the [w] in quarter.

        • David Marjanović says:

          …or in Fort Worth [fɹ̩ʷˈʔɹ̩ʷθ].

          • j. says:

            Worth as the input is /wɜrθ/ (EMEng *wʊrθ) and not /wɔrθ/ as in the common noun, isn’t it?

            I’m not sure what, if anything, a sporadic contraction in a single placename should be taken to show anyway.

  4. It turns out that the preservation of *č in Old Mansi dialects was independently discovered by Oleg Smirnov in his paper “Субстратная мансийская топонимия на территории былого проживания манси” (Substrate Mansi toponymy of the former Mansi territory).

  5. I will translate the relevant passage from Smirnov’s article:

    Toponymic facts from the areas of the former residence of the Mansi can contribute to the investigation of some questions of the history of the Mansi language. So, for example, in place of the Western Mansi, Tavda š, Northern s in many substratal Mansi toponyms we find a hushing affricate č. This phenomenon was recorded by G.V. Glinskikh in the toponymy of the Tavda river basin (in its southern and western parts). Similar place names are also noted in the basins of Tura and Chusovaya. The Mansi hydronymic formant corresponding to North Mansi sōs ‘brook’ is especially indicative in this respect. In the Pelym river basin, it is regularly reflected as -шош. To the south, in the middle reaches of the Tavda, and to the west, in the basin of Southern Sosva, where the Mansi were assimilated a little earlier, it regularly corresponds to -чош/-чёш, and in basin of Tura – -чаш and even -чач.
    A similar hushing affricate č in place of the Western Mansi, Tavda š, Northern Mansi s is fairly regularly observed in the Mansi lexical lists of the 18th century from the territory of Chusovaya and South Sosva, as well as in the lists marked as Verkhotursk dialect: Chusovaya tschaschkwa ‘small river’, tschische ‘back’, tschantschu ‘knees’, tschotschau ‘currants’, etc. [СНТВУ], South Sosva tschusch, Upper Tura чючь ‘flea’ [Honti, 1982, 133], South Sosva ootsche, Upper Tura оча ‘town’ [Ibid., 191] and many others. In the word lists of the first half of the 18th century, called the Verkhnyaya Tura Vogul dialect (“диалект верхотурских вогул”), the affricate č appears in all the cases mentioned above. In the basins of Chusovaya, Tura, and Tagil rivers, and in the toponymy of South Sosva its positional character can be noted. Here it is found mainly word-initially if another instance of š (č) follows in the stem, or after the nasal sonorant n (cf. tschantschu, Middle Konda Chantschemakue). The abundance of such facts, both toponymic and appellative, in sources written down in different languages cannot be accidental and, most likely, is due to the actual pronunciation of the corresponding sound as an affricate in the original Mansi dialects (it should be noted that G.F. Müller, citing the Pelym cognates of the Chusovaya dialect forms, writes only sch in all words, for example: Chusovaya tschische, Pelym schisch ‘back’, etc. [СНТВУ]). Since the West Mansi, Tavda č and North Mansi s goes back to Proto-Ob-Ugric [Honti, 1982, 24, 131-134], it follows that Old Mansi dialects of the 17-18th centuries on the western and southern periphery of the Mansi area (in the basins of South Sosva, Tura, Chusovaya and the middle reaches of Tavda), apparently retained this affricate as a characteristic peripheral archaism. In view of this, can be reconstructed not only for the Proto-Ob-Ugric, but also for the Proto-Mansi (at least as a dialectal or positional variant).

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