Blog Archives

A Century Late on Proto-Finnic sibilants

There are broadly two commonly seen ways of thinking about progress in science. The first is the “naive” Science Marches On narrative where we have ever-increasing aggregation of solid Results; the archetype is mathematics, where results indeed stay around as

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Posted in Commentary, Reconstruction

Phonology squib: Conditional *h-loss in Estonian

The history of Proto-Finnic *h provides several illustrative examples of the diachronic development of “laryngeal” consonants. The primary overarching pattern is a north(east)–south(west) cline of gradual loss. This demonstrates that *h-loss processes have arisen independently in multiple lineages, and in

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Posted in Reconstruction

Nonregularity in North Caucasian

Due to a recent ZBB discussion I ended up re-reading Sergei Starostin’s A North Caucasian Etymological Dictionary Preface. This is one of the more worrisome cases of “Moscow School” phonological tarpits: there is no doubt about Northeast Caucasian being a

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Posted in Commentary, Methodology

The treatment of /f/ in Finnic

Loanwords from Germanic and, more recently, Russian have been feeding *f into Finnic for a good while. Today /f/ has been established as a loanword phoneme in most Finnic varieties (including, I think, all of the literary standards), but for

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Posted in Etymology

Notes on the phonology of Kamassian

For a language family mostly made up of minority languages, Uralic is really quite well documented by any standards. Most of the smaller languages have received decent descriptions already in the 19th century, and many also theoretically updated reflections later

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Posted in Reconstruction

A Fourth Laryngeal in PIE

The Proto-Indo-European laryngeals seem to form, in most people’s thinking, a kind of a phonological subsystem. Usually they end up as a class of back fricatives, or at least some kind of weaker back consonants. They certainly have similar diachronic behavior…

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Posted in Reconstruction

The fate of *w in Altaic

A fairly striking typological commonality between the “micro-Altaic” language groups: Turkic, Mongolic and Tungusic (Tk, Mg, Tg) is the lack of a labial glide such as /w/. This is clearly out of line among both the world’s languages in general,

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Posted in Reconstruction

Were there Proto-Samic *š-stems? Some issues of Samic-Finnic chronology

Despite ongoing disputes about the subgrouping of the Uralic family, it is clearly the case that the Finnic and Samic languages have been at least neighbors for several millennia now, exchanging linguistic features and material back and forth. With care,

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Posted in Reconstruction

An old etymology: aistiész

I find it interesting how modern advances in Uralic historical phonology can occasionally turn out to vindicate old sketchy etymological proposals, dating from the earliest phases of scientific comparison of the word stocks of the Uralic languages. One of these

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Posted in Etymology

Consonant clusters growing, wilting and syllabic

From a Uralicist perspective, one thing that I find goes underappreciated in Indo-European studies is the extensive phonotactic complexity of most IE languages. Certain types of studies on PIE consonant clusters can be found these days in abundance, yes… but

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Posted in Reconstruction

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