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Phonological Renormalization

A small definition of a concept. Across the dialectology of various languages we very often find almost the same segment inventory despite various innovations. I call this phenomenon “phonological renormalization”. It seems somewhat mysterious at first: it is hard to

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Posted in Methodology

Examples of reductive primary splits

On a whim I have started reading the Oxford Handbook of Historical Phonology. At about two and a half chapters in I have finally reached some discussion of practical questions in some detail, and the first claim to have struck

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Posted in Commentary, Methodology

No mid vowel dissimilation in Greek — nor Finnish?

I recently read “Deconstructing ‘height dissimilation’ in Modern Greek” (Journal of Greek Linguistics 3, 2002) by Julián Méndez Dosuna. I don’t really dabble in Modern Greek dialectology, but this struck me as an interesting paper for its methodology regardless, and

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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

Native initial clusters in Udmurt

Typological definitions of Uralic [1] just about always note the lack of native word-initial consonant clusters. While the literary standards have their share of IE-derived clusters by now, in rural dialects and the Siberian languages clusterlessness is common enough to

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Posted in Reconstruction

A Problem Statement for Uralic vocalism

As noted in my previous post, I have by now nailed down as my next professional milestone a hunt for previously unnoticed innovative features within the Finnic vowel system. Besides individual surface questions about how the vowel system of Proto-Uralic

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Posted in Methodology, Reconstruction

Another Phonological Relict in South Estonian

Some days ago, I decided to go for a re-reading of Setälä’s classic Yhteissuomalainen äännehistoria (1891) (that’s “Common Finnic Historical Phonology”, for the non-Finnish-reading people in the audience). This proved a good idea, in yielding not just the confirmation of

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Posted in Etymology, Reconstruction

The phonetic vagueness of laryngeal theory

While I continue to be strictly speaking Not An Indo-Europeanist, I regularly keep reading about comparative Indo-European research just as well. Including not only matters with immediate relevance to Uralic studies, but also the usual controversy honeypots: interpretations of the

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Posted in Commentary, Methodology

Some observations on Votic õ versus o

One of the bigger open problems of Finnic historical phonology is the shift *o > õ in Southern Finnic. The non-front non-open illabial vowel õ found across Southern Finnic — the exact realization varies from /ɤ/ to /ɨ/ — most

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Posted in Reconstruction

On the epistemology of sound change, part 1

Continuing from the last post, and toning the meta-ness of the discussion down just a little… What does it, at the level of everyday research, mean for me to request “justification on the basis of more elementary phenomena” for the

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Posted in Methodology

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