28 Sep 2008

Phoenix discusses Nostratic

Today, it's a beautiful, sunny day in the Forks area in downtown Winnipeg where the local population tend to accumulate on a regular basis during the weekends year-round. The temperature is getting a little cooler and the geese are heading south again for the winter but a light jacket suffices for now. A pow-wow of Native dancers jingling to the sacred drum ensues in the central area under a large tarp. Cree and Ojibway peoples have a growing presence in this city. Meanwhile, here inside the Irish pub in an upstairs location nearby where I sit looking over the spectacle, 50s rock-and-roll plays from the speakers. I really must start making my articles in advance, I think to myself, because during the week I've been finding that I've had little mind-energy to spend writing down all my linguistic ponderings.

In the meanwhile as I get reorganized and finally take advantage of Blogger's capability to issue my blog rants at prearranged intervals, you can venture over to Phoenix's blog where he's noticed something askew about some details of Allan Bomhard's published views on Proto-Nostratic: Nostraticists and their crazy theories.

I remain a Nostratic sympathist myself, seeing the hope and positive probability of the language family, but I also recognize that even prominent Nostraticists continue to make serious errors based on their inaccurate understandings of the various language groups involved. At any rate, this is a topic worth discussing, sharing and growing from.

17 Sep 2008

Here's what happened to me

In a nutshell: I've been painfully busy. I've had little time due to working, socializing (yes! a shocker, hehe!), and coming down with a nasal cold from hell (honestly I don't have the heart to blow into one more kleenex, bleh!!).

So the Etruscan database update has been unfulfilled for September 15 as I had originally planned. To be honest, I just haven't updated much to it so adding an updated draft seems pointless as yet. However, that doesn't mean my task is done. As usual, my data-mining is a neverending hobby for me that won't stop until the Good Goddess in the sky shuts me up for good and takes me away to the land beyond. For whatever reason, my mind has been stuck on Pre-IE, the Neolithic period and the phonetics of Semitic loanwords. I'll get back to Etruscan soon but my mind likes to wander from time to time.

Anyways, I'd also like to thank everyone so far for some great, tough questions. It's nice to see that you're all still interested in my blogrants, even those from a while back, and that it's getting people thinking and discussing.

For now, I need some Neo-Citran, a warm blanket, and a good night's sleep.

7 Sep 2008

Ejective or Pharyngealized Stops in Proto-Semitic?

An interesting side-effect of obsessing over these correspondances between Proto-Indo-European (PIE) and Proto-Semitic (PSem) is that I've been noticing some potentially interesting and very minute details about Proto-Semitic pronunciation. There's one issue that's starting to get me excited involving the exact nature of “emphatic” stops.

From what little I've admittedly read on Proto-Semitic, my understanding so far is that emphatic stops are considered to have originally been either ejective stops (as in Amharic) or pharyngealized stops (as in Arabic). Regardless of which one they were, they apparently derive from the ejective stops of Proto-Afro-Asiatic, the ancestral proto-parent of the Semitic, Egyptian, Chadic, Cushitic and Berber languages. Interestingly, the Mid IE correspondances that I've identified so far seem to suggest to me that, rather than having ejectives stops, Proto-Semitic had pharyngealized stops as in modern Arabic. The reason why I think this regards equations like PSem *ḥāniṭu “ripening” based on the triliteral verb root *ḥnṭ “to ripen” (c.f. *ḥinṭu “wheat, barley”) and Mid IE (MIE) *xénda “to blossom” (> PIE *h₂endʰ-).

To an Indo-Europeanist or Nostraticist who may be simultaneously of the belief of both a Glottalic IE and a Glottalic Semitic, the two words may be associated only with some difficulty despite congruent semantics because PIE *dʰ is supposed to be underlyingly plain /d/ while Semitic emphatic *ṭ is presumed to be an ejective //. However, I don't think this is the only rational option.

As stated earlier on my blog, I've come to the conclusion that MIE's inherited ejective stops had already deglottalized to stops with creaky voice, opposing the plain-voiced stops (i.e. The ones traditionally written with superscript “h”). In other words, I believe there was an intermediary stage lasting from the Mid IE period to well into Fragmenting PIE when the traditionally-described “plain stops” (or rather, the “ejective stops” of the Glottalic Theory camp) were in fact creaky voiced stops (i.e. half-voiced stops). Thus, even if PSem had ejective stops, MIE speakers should be expected to find more native approximates to these foreign sounds. And indeed, this appears to be the case from the examples I've shared so far in my continuously edited pdf of Semitic loans in PIE.

However, we still have problems equating these two aforementioned lexemes if one remains resolute in this adapted belief that MIE had creaky-voiced stops while PSem had ejective ones since it's hard to explain away such a phonetically implausible replacement of an entirely unvoiced ejective stop with a creaky voiced stop by any innocent speaker no matter how foreign they may be to the exotic sound of ejective stops. Yet, if we allow our minds to consider the possibility of pharyngealized emphatics in Proto-Semitic where concurrent voicing would still be possible, albeit delayed a moment after stop closure, then the mystery of the equivalence between MIE *d /d/ and PSem *ṭ /tʕ/ in the above example immediately disappears. In fact, elegantly so if I do say so myself (and I will because I'm playfully cocky that way). This can also explain what would otherwise be problematic correspondances regarding MIE creaky-voiced *g̃(ʷ) and PSem *q (if /kʕ/) as in the example of PSem *qawāmu “to rise up” vs. PIE *gʷem- “to come”.