23 Dec 2008

Loprieno on Middle Egyptian Vocalism

After reading Loprieno's version of Middle Egyptian in Ancient Egyptian, I have some reservations. While there is no doubt that his book is chalked full of knowledge and facts about the Egyptian and Coptic languages, I can't help but think that the vowels in Middle Egyptian could be reconstructed a little better. In some cases, his reconstructions even seem a little, dare I say, implausible. For one thing, it seems to me that there is no point in reconstructing anything but a schwa for all unstressed vowels. Evidentally, based on Coptic evidence, unstressed vowels must have fell together anyway as confirmed by John Collender who writes that this event happened before the Late Egyptian period. Also, it seems to me that long vowels as predicted by Coptic might be explained on the phonetic level rather than the phonemic, based largely on the structure of the Middle Egyptian syllable (i.e. long vowels in open syllables; short vowels in closed syllables).

So, for the past few months now, I've been pompously pondering on how I would reconstruct Middle Egyptian more precisely. Quite frankly, I can't say that I'm anywhere near an expert in Egyptian linguistics yet. However I do understand how languages work and I can't resist exploring new ideas. We can compare Loprieno's version of the Egyptian numerals from “one” to “ten” as exemplars of what dissatisfies me about his reconstructions and what my own mind is instinctively concocting for better or worse.

Loprieno (1995)[1]My attemptSahidic Coptic
wˁ.w 'one'*wúʕʕuw*waʕ
sn.wy 'two'*sinúwway*səna(ʕ)wi
ḫmt.w 'three'*ḫámtaw*ḫámətə
fd.w 'four'*yifdáw*fədá
dỉ.w 'five'*dī́yaw*díyə
sỉs.w 'six'*sáʔsaw*sisá
sfḫ.w 'seven'*sáfḫaw*sáfḫə
ḫmn.w 'eight'*ḫamā́naw*ḫəmánə
psḏ.w 'nine'*pisī́jaw*pəsíjə
mḏ.w 'ten'*mū́jaw*mújə

I presume that Loprieno reconstructs *yifdáw '4' (and likewise John Callender reconstructs *yAssáw '6') based on Coptic --afte and -ase as in mNtafte '14', mNtase '16', jwtafte '24' and jwtase '26'. However, I wonder if this might be the result of an intrusive vowel inserted before the Coptic period, perhaps to avoid accentuation on the final syllable of a compound word since, coincidentally, it appears that both 'four' and 'six' must have had accent on the ultima in Middle Egyptian. Perhaps along the lines of: *mujə-fədá > *mujə-ftá > *mujáftə > Sahidic mNtafte. What's more, if the word 'four' is etymologically related to Hausa huɗu as is commonly understood then it's rather unlikely to me, based on both this and the Coptic reflex, that there was a prothetic syllable in this numeral and probably also in the word for 'six' for the same reason.

Then again, I admit I might be missing some important fact or another so if someone can please explain why Loprieno reconstructs things the way he does, don't be shy to post me a contrarian comment. On topics like these, I rather enjoy academic disagreements over and above homogeneous consensus.

[1] Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian (1995), p.71 (see link).

13 Dec 2008

Scientists find 2,000-year-old brain in Britain


"British archaeologists have unearthed an ancient skull carrying a startling surprise — an unusually well-preserved brain. Scientists said Friday that the mass of gray matter was more than 2,000 years old — the oldest ever discovered in Britain. One expert unconnected with the find called it 'a real freak of preservation.'"
Read more here...

6 Dec 2008

Solving the inner portions of the Piacenza Liver

As promised, I want to share some new ideas concerning the Piacenza Liver (see pic here). The Piacenza Liver is an Etruscan bronze model used for haruspicy (i.e. divination using sheep's livers) for those that aren't familiar with it. Despite the fact that this object was retrieved in 1877, the full meaning of this object and its relationship to Etruscan mythology remains an infuriating mystery. Perhaps I'm an impatient fellow but as far as I'm concerned, there are many mysteries that strike me as not being true mysteries, but rather artificial mysteries that our society holds onto like a security blanket against the "fear of the known" that presumably makes life more dull. As for me, I can't resist a good puzzle to solve, so to each one's own.

I'll just cut straight to the chase of my overall thoughts on this subject with a graphic here below:

Maybe this seems a little Dumezilian, however I notice that the inner portion of the artefact can be arranged into three equal parts that may relate to a tripartite world-view of celestial, earthy and infernal worlds. This would then imply that the wheel like structure of six portions may relate to the underworld while the deities next to the "mountain" on the other lobe of the liver may relate to the goings-on of the heavens. In the center, where we find the heroic demigod Heracle and an unknown deity named Methlumth (n.b. meθlum means "people"), priests may have prophecized more on matters of the physical, earthly world of humankind.

I have a lot more to say but chew on that for a while. I'll be back.

4 Dec 2008

Itching to crack the Piacenza Liver soon

Sorry that I've been busy, everyone. However I have a fresh entry just itching to be written about the Etruscan Piacenza Liver, a bronze model of a sheep's liver created for the ritualistic practice called haruspicy in order to divine the future. It's clear that this quirky practice originated from the Near East and there are similar Babylonian liver models fashioned many centuries preceding Etruscan civilization that I've compared on this blog before. The only tricky part is the fact that the Etruscan liver model and the Babylonian counterparts don't seem to coincide very nicely together aside from some general similarities. I've never found any author who has adequately explained the entire significance of this Etruscan artefact in ritual and mythology. Explanations are always vague with little to offer, not even a plausible theory.

That being said, after obsessing over it this past week, I noticed some new and interesting patterns that I want to share with everyone involving the mysterious interior sections marked with names of deities. While the outer border is plainly representive of the 16 directions of the cosmos, the inner sections seem to be connected to less well-known mythological structures or concepts that are important nonetheless to our understanding of Etruscan world-view. On one lobe of the liver there is a circular structure of six deities while on the other lobe there appears to be a mountain-like structure under which lie eight deities. Then there is a central flat section which doesn't seem to be connected to the two opposing, aforementioned structures as well as a fourth, the teardrop structure corresponding to the gall bladder which is allotted to four more deities.

My question is this: What do these structures signify and why are they placed in this way?

Well I think I have a lot to say on this now. Teehee! So stay tuned and in the meantime see if you readers can make sense of the Piacenza Liver inscriptions as pictured above.

23 Nov 2008

Laryngeal abuse - Phonemes caught in the reconstructive crossfire

Today I'm here to warn you about the tragedy of laryngeal abuse. This is when you see a long vowel in some proto-language and a devilish thought comes to mind like "Gee, I wonder if that long vowel is underlyingly the result of a vowel-plus-laryngeal combo?" And then before you know it, you've gone and rearranged the entire proto-language according to your laryngeal-obsessed whims. Laryngeals are fun, but we have to keep a level head too.

I remain convinced that Bhadriraju Krishnamurti's version of Proto-Dravidian is one such example of this laryngeal abuse at work, and it seems to me that this can be quickly resolved by examining what a mess he makes out of the pronominal system of this language. As far as I'm concerned it's supposed to look like this (i.e. how most Dravidianists reconstruct it):

(obl. *yan-)
*yām / *nām
(obl. *yam- /*nam-)
(obl. *nin-)
(obl. *nim-)
3p (reflexive)*tān
(obl. *tan-)
(obl. *tam-)

However, Krishnamurti has proposed the following[1]:

1p*yaHn*yaHm / *ñaHm
3p (reflexive)*taHn*taHm

He then suggests that the laryngeals disappear in oblique forms. However the process by which this happens is obscure and left unexplained. In contrast, the idea that long vowels are reduced when used in oblique cases or when preposed to another noun is natural and commonplace. For example, we may take note of French moi "me" versus enclitic m(e) "me, myself", the latter being preposed to verbs as the object (e.g. Elles m'aident. "They help me."; Vous me dérangez "You disturb me."). Since we know where French comes from (i.e. Latin, of course!), we know how absurd and off-track it would be to reconstruct Proto-Latin **me(H) "me" in ignorance of attested Latin, placing a laryngeal in there that appears and disappears conveniently like the Cheshire Cat without rhyme or reason.

I have to say that I just don't buy Krishnamurti's reworking of the pronominal system. Whether Dravidian ultimately has a few laryngeals lurking about is, to be fair, a seperate issue that may still hold true, but these pronouns surely don't contain any. To add them here makes analysis more difficult rather than less.

[1] Krishnamurti, Comparative Dravidian Linguistics (2001), p.336 (see link).

20 Nov 2008

Back to business: emphatic particles and verbal extensions

Now, returning to the safer topic of comparative linguistics, I still am trying to account for how my new solution concerning the prehistoric genesis of Proto-Indo-European's uvular sounds helps (or maybe hinders?) my attempts at trying to figure out the origins of the emphatic particle *[ǵ/g](ʰ)[e/o] which is thus far so hideously reconstructed by current Indo-Europeanists.

However, if we take the velar contained in the nominative first person singular pronoun, which appears to contain the fossilized remnants of the earliest form of the emphatic particle when the pronoun was first coined in the Late Period (ie. *h₁eǵoh₂, literally "(as for) my being here" from *h₁e "here" + *ǵe [emphatic] + *-oh₂ [old 1ps subjunctive]; parallel in development to the 1ps pronouns of Inuktitut uva-ŋa, Aleut ti-ŋ, and Proto-Semitic *an-āku), we are pointed to *ǵe as the most appropriate reconstruction. Any other forms of this particle would then have developed later after presumably being influenced by or merging with other existing words or particles with similar phonetics and meaning. In the earlier Mid IE (MIE) stage, we could then posit an emphatic particle *g̰a derived from Indo-Aegean *k’ə. From there, if comparable to Uralic emphatic *-ka attached to some pronominal stems[1], we might finally reconstruct a Proto-Steppe emphatic particle *k’ə to account for both the Indo-European and Uralic forms. Can you all swallow that? Granted, this all remains tentative for now, but it's worth a shot.

Considering the differing velar stop in the emphatic particle, the verbal extension with uvular stop, seen in PIE verbs like *yeu-g- "to join" whose *g-less counterpart has identical semantics, must not be related afterall as I had previously assumed. Instead I'd like to suggest that it derives from a Mid IE aspectual marker *-ɢ̰a-, which originally might have conveyed a perfective sense. This implies earlier Indo-Aegean *-k’a- (thus Etruscan -ac- [perfective] as in tur-ac-e "was given") and relatable then to the Uralic perfective in *-ka. In this case, a Proto-Steppe perfective suffix *-k’a would be in order to explain the later forms.

That so far is my solution concerning that. Let's see if this idea sticks.

[1] Fortescue, Language Relations Across Bering Strait (1998), p.113 (see link) confirms Uralic emphatic *-ka.

18 Nov 2008

PIE Uvulars: A revised solution of their origin

I've been frought with stress this past week due to something ridiculous that happened to me. I'll recount my ordeal in the very next post coming up. At any rate, after deep relection, I think I have an awesome way to rework my theory to account for the uvular phonemes in Proto-Indo-European (PIE) much better than I had before and with the least amount of added complexity. As usual, you may want to consult my continually updated document Diachrony of Pre-IE to get a grasp of what I'm suggesting. Listen to this latest crazy idea of mine.

I would like to now propose that distinct uvular phonemes had already existed by the end of Old IE (OIE) when unstressed vowels merged phonetically to schwa. They were, as I stated before, initially produced by allophonic differences dependent on the neighbouring vowel. Originally at the Proto-Indo-Aegean stage (before 7000 BCE), a velar sound (ie. any of *x, *xʷ, *k, *kʷ, *g̰, *g̰ʷ, *g, or *gʷ) neighbouring the low vowel *a acquired an allophone with a [+low] quality (ie. *x → [χ], *xʷ → [χʷ], *k → [q], *kʷ → [], *g̰ → [ɢ̰], *g̰ʷ → [ɢ̰ʷ], *g → [ɢ], or *gʷ → [ɢʷ]). I've already mentioned that the Mongolic language, Khalkha, exhibits the same alternation. There are also the examples of Even and Yakut that are both undergoing similar processes of phonemicization of uvulars as I describe for earlier stages of Pre-IE[1]. So when unstressed vowels merged in OIE, the nature of the uvularization automatically became obscured.

However to add to this idea, I also propose that Indo-Aegean's Decentralization of the inherited vowel system hadn't caused merger of former accented to *a just yet. Rather, the two vowels must have remained distinct for a while in OIE until phonemicization of uvulars was complete.

With these revisions come some interesting changes to my views concerning some important roots and their prehistoric etymologies. For example, the well-known PIE root for "dog", *ḱwon-, might then ultimately originate from Proto-Steppe *kə-huni "tamed canine" (not *ka-huni, as I believed before), thus becoming Indo-Aegean *kəxʷanə and then MIE *kaχʷána due to Penultimate Accent Shift (PAS). The vowel in that example, not being a low vowel, didn't uvularize the preceding word-initial velar stop to *q-, although the following laryngeal was uvularized by the second vowel. To explain another example, PIE *kreuh₂- "raw flesh", we must reconstruct MIE *qaréuxa- to account for it with a distinct uvular stop at the beginning to yield later PIE *k-. If this was a native term used in the earliest stages preceding PAS, then only *a may be prescribed in the first syllable in order to explain the later uvular, thus we should presume earlier *kárəuxə-.

This also has an impact on Proto-Semitic (PSem) loans that I identify in my online pdf. With the allowance of uvulars at this stage of cultural and linguistic contact between PIE and PSem, the interaction between the two will have to be revised slightly. For example, PSem participle *māšiʔu is now more understandably converted to MIE *mésɢ̰a- (> PIE *mesg- "to dip in water") with uvular stop *ɢ̰ because it would have been the closest approximation possible to a word-medial glottal stop for an MIE speaker. I maintain that word-medial glottal stops did not exist in the language at this stage.

I'll save my solutions concerning the possible geneses of the poorly reconstructed PIE particle *[ǵ/g](ʰ)[e/o] and the mystery verbal extension -g- for a later post.

[1] Fortescue, Language Relations Across Bering Strait (1998), p.72 (see link) explains that uvularization of velars neighbouring low and/or back vowels is quite linguistically natural.

13 Nov 2008

Confused about PIE's intensive particle *ge

I'm so confused about the "intensive particle" in Proto-Indo-European (PIE) right now. The exact nature of the particle is related to my previous ponderings on uvulars and their Pre-IE origins. It seems that some Indoeuropeanists reconstruct *ǵe[1] and some reconstruct *ge. Then there's also *gʰe which appears to be reconstructed alongside *ǵʰi as in the emphatic negation *né-ǵʰi "not at all"[2]. All of them are supposedly "intensive" particles with the same function.

What makes this more confusing is that I'm pretty sure that the pronoun *h₁éǵoh₂ "I" has to be the product of *e, *ǵe [intensive particle] and *-oh₂ [old 1ps subjunctive]. Yet if so, everything in that word implies that the velar was originally , not *g (see Paleoglot, The Origin of Indo-European Ego, Apr 07 2008). Yet if it started out as , it can't explain what appears to be an intensive or punctual suffix *-g- used on verbs like *yeu-g- "to join" (c.f. *yeu- "to join") and *bʰoh₁-g- "to bake" (c.f. *bʰeh₁- "to warm"). Surely this is connected, no? It also seems suspect that a productive particle or suffix would have used such a marked phoneme (i.e. As I've stated earlier, *g is likely to me to be a uvular, creaky-voiced stop rather than a "plain" one as per traditional reconstruction). My instinct is telling me that it surely must have once been (i.e. a plain voiced velar stop in the revised reconstruction) but then this denies a link to the verbal extension in uvular *-g-.

I'm so confused and so far I can't make heads or tails of it yet I know that all of these things must be connected somehow.

(November 13 2008) Corrected the definition of *bʰeh₁- from "to burn" to "to warm". It's just a slight technicality that doesn't affect my above reasoning.

[1] Beekes, Comparative Indo-European Linguistics (1995), p.222 (see link).
[2] Both unpalatalized *gʰe and palatalized *né-ǵʰi with different voiced velars are shown boldly on the same page of Mallory/Adams, The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World (2006), p.69 (see link), emphasizing my point that something may be a little wonky with the reconstruction of this particle which appears to have too many possible forms: *ǵe, *ge, *ǵʰe, *gʰe, *ǵʰi or *gʰo.

10 Nov 2008

Phonemicization of uvulars in Old IE?

I just had a nifty idea that I'm trying out. Bear with me. Again, this all refers back to my pdf containing my latest summary of theories of detailed chronology in Pre-IE so it might be interesting for any of you to take a gander who have not done so already: click here.

I'm doing another thought experiment here. Instinctively, I just can't let go of the idea that uvulars in PIE (Proto-Indo-European) were born at some point out of allophones of velars and that this allophony was initially triggered by neighbouring vowels. This is similar to what goes on in Khalkha (Mongolian). So in other words, *k when neighbouring a low vowel, *a, would once have yielded a uvular allophone /q/ (which is also phonetically speaking [+low]) while next to higher vowels, the more common /k/ would surface.

However, since I love simplicity and Occam's Razor so much, I wanted to see if I could cut it to the bare minimum and have this uvularization only possible in accented syllables in Mid IE. This almost explains everything since clusters like *kC- (i.e. phonetically /qC-/) are pretty rare in PIE. Unfortunately, they do occur nonetheless and, not only that, so do other well-established roots like *yeug- "to join" which imply pretty heavily that I'm wrong about uvularization only occuring in unaccented Mid IE (MIE) syllables since the corresponding MIE form of *yeug- could only have been *yéuCa- and yet a plain *g in place of this *C is insufficient to explain the later uvular we see in PIE. I've avoided this problem too long obviously so today's the day!

Ergo, if I'm correct that vowels triggered this uvularization in the first place and yet if I'm also correct that unaccented vowels merged into a single schwa by Mid IE, I'm forced to admit that uvulars must have already been phonemicized in the language by the time of contact with Proto-Semitic, circa 5500 BCE. Egad! I'll see where that idea takes me. It's just a titulating thought for now so forgive the mess.

9 Nov 2008

Getting the origins of Mars and Vulcan right

I just noticed a distracting piece of nonsense from a book published by Oxford University Press and it just proves why a healthy dose of skepticism is important to sway us from the ignorance born from credentialism. The moment we see some impressive name like “Oxford”, it's human nature to accidentally believe, “Oh, Oxford University! Well, anyone from there is surely never misinformed.” Guess again. We're only human, no matter where we come from.

As I was doing my daily perusal of Google Books, I came across The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World[1] with a table of reconstructed Indo-European deities, therein claiming that the theonym Mars may be derived from an Indo-European root *Māwort- (c.f. Sanskrit Marutas) and that the theonym Vulcan may stem from *Wĺ̥keh₂nos. Now, in matters of theory, one may appeal somewhat to the mysterious unknown since it can never be known with absolute certainty whether an etymology provided is a correct one. However, we can know with reasonable certainty whether something is incorrect by way of a little bit of old fashioned deduction.

What's silly about these claims is that it's been known for some time now that Mars was originally an agricultural god[2], not a war god, and was further an import from Etruscan mythology. The Etruscan name for this god of the fields was Maris with an extra -i- between the ar and ess, which makes it rather clear that the name must have been borrowed into Latin from Etruscan, not the other way around. The Sanskrit name Marutas on the other hand specifically refers to wind gods. So neither of these pseudocognates can seriously be connected to this ad hoc reconstruction **Māworts. For what it's worth, I've suggested that the purely Etruscan name Maris is built on a verb mar “to harvest” which would be more fitting afterall for the name of an agricultural deity. A little more theoretically plausible at least than what's in this book, dare I be too bold to say lest future comments from studious viewers like you prove me otherwise.

Now onward to the name Vulcan or in Latin, Vulcānus. This name is likewise borrowed from Etruscan Velchan and its Etruscan origin is further substantiated by the several Etruscan deities whose names and epithets end in -an. Names such as Turan, Sethlans and Alpan, for example. Personally I would suggest that Velchan can be broken down in the Etruscan language as velχ “hidden” (< vel “to hide”) and is then a direct Etruscan parallel to Greek Hades (said to be from αιδης aidēs “unseen” < PIE *n̥widḗs)[3] which means the same. (Interestingly, the name of the Egyptian god of the setting sun, Amon, also means “hidden”[4]. Coincidence?) Then the fact that the chthonic functions of both Hades and Velchan overlap also helps out my hypothesis nicely.

Later on page 410, we read: “[...] the amount of irregular sound change one has to assume, in the absence of an exact semantic equation, is more than most historical linguists are prepared to accept.” However, this is a naive assessment of these etymologies since historical linguists quite rightly should not be prepared to accept something that is ignorant of important historical facts.

Despite this controversy, other names reconstructed for Proto-Indo-European such as *H₂éusōs “Dawn” and *Dyēus-Ph₂tḗr “Sky Father” are much better attested and may be considered more genuine.

[1] Mallory/Adams, The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World (2006), p.409 (see link).
[2] Funk, Thereby Hangs a Tale - Stories of Curious Word Origins (2007), p.184 (see link).
[3] Padel, In and Out of the Mind (1994), p.99 (see link).
[4] Frankfort, Ancient Egyptian Religion (2000), p.22 (see link).

3 Nov 2008

Still on the hunt for Semitic-PIE connections

I don't know why but I'm hooked on the eastern European Neolithic lately. Ever since I've overcome my denial that Proto-Indo-European (PIE) and Proto-Semitic (PSem) not only had linguistic and cultural contact with each other due to intercontinental trade between the Balkans and Anatolia but that these prehistoric contacts must have been significant enough to affect PIE in a way that linguists could only describe as "intensive contact" by all the markers linguists would use to define something as such, I've been on the neverending hunt for more evidence of Semitic loans in Proto-Indo-European. And not only that, but within the precise context of my pre-existing theory of Mid IE which I've independently arrived at by my own internal reconstruction of PIE proper. I was always dismayed by Allan Bomhard's ignorance of possible IE-Semitic loans in his rush to reconstruct Proto-Nostratic in Indo-European and the Nostratic Hypothesis (1996), but now I'm even more dismayed as I find other hints at this apparently extensive intercultural communication.

I think I've noticed another possible loan from PSem into PIE. Compare PIE *mesg- (possibly pronounced [mezɢ̰-]) "to dip in water"[1] with PSem *māsiʔu, active participle of triliteral root *msʔ "to wash"[2]. Interesting? I think so. The link would suggest that it entered Indo-European via Mid IE *mesg̃a-. The reinterpretation of Proto-Semitic glottal stop as a creaky-voiced *g̃ by Mid IE speakers makes better sense if we theorize that word-medial glottal stops had already softened to a velar /h/ in Indo-European before contact with Semitic. I believe the other loans I identify in my pdf so far also suggest that this was the case. It all seems good but I admit there's one slight problem. Since I've already theorized that uvulars were only allophones of their velar counterparts at this stage, I've apparently treed myself into a logical pickle and I can't quite account for the source for the added uvularization (i.e. the velar stop is "non-palatalized" according to traditional PIE notation, thus according to the reinterpretation of the sound system I stand by, the *-g- in *mesg- would appear to be a uvular creaky-voiced stop). Hmmm, perhaps I'm still missing something in my theory. Exciting!

[1] Adams/Mallory, Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture (1997), p.160 (see link).
[2] Greenfield/Paul/Stone/Pinnick, Al Kanfei Yonah: Collected Studies of Jonas C. Greenfield on Semitic Philology (1991), p.471 (see link).

2 Nov 2008

Daydreaming about unattested Etruscan pronouns

Considering the pronominal system that I've ironed out lately for the Old IE stage, I figure that the previous Indo-Aegean stage shouldn't have been much different. So in that light, it's fun to ponder a little on all the Etruscan pronouns yet to be uncovered in future artefacts and what we might expect to find by working backwards from Indo-European. If you don't already know, the only pronouns that are known for certain in Etruscan are the 1st person singular, the 3rd person singular animate and the 3rd person singular inanimate pronouns.

Now, perhaps I should reiterate my position on Etruscan's relationship to Indo-European by stating that I emphatically *do not* believe that Etruscan or any of its tongues that I believe are part of a Proto-Aegean language family (Lemnian, Rhaetic, Eteo-Cypriot, Eteo-Cretan, and Minoan) are classifiable as Indo-European languages whatsoever. However, I do believe that there is an ultimate relationship between Proto-Aegean and Proto-Indo-European and that they had diverged from each other by around 7000 BCE. I also think that the relationship between Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Aegean is much closer than the relationship between Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Uralic. If I'm correct, it's a productive topic for budding Nostraticists to delve into further.

So for idle kicks, here's my latest superficial attempt at fleshing out the Etruscan pronominal system:

1st personmi (nom.)
mini (obl.)
*vi (nom.)
*mer (obl.)
2nd person*zu (nom.)
*zini (obl.)
*ti (nom./obl)
3rd person animateanin
3rd person inanimateinin

31 Oct 2008

The trouble with the PIE 1st & 2nd person plural endings (3)

(Continued from The trouble with the PIE 1st & 2nd person plural endings (2).)

When we look at the pair *-mén(i)/*-tén(i), the so-called plural *-n- appears to be only explainable as the product of analogy with early MIE 3pp ending *-éna before the time when *ta “that” (> PIE *to-) was employed to extend the 3rd person singular and plural endings. This termination may once have spread from the third person plural active to the rest of the plural terminations at an early date. QAR predicts accent on *e and the etymology of these endings is transparent indicating that *-mén(i) and *-tén(i) date to at least the Mid IE period before Syncope had yet to take effect.

Now, if we know that *-mén(i) and *-tén(i) are quite ancient, it follows that the accentuation of *-més and *-té can be explained as analogy with older *-mén and *-tén. However, the lack of *-i in primary *-més and *-té still begs an answer. Logically, whatever the source of these unextended endings, they must have once had no need for the indicative *-i. This may indicate a particular usage outside of the primary conjugation. I believe that a possible reason for this is that these latter pair of endings were taken directly from the independent oblique plural pronouns of the time: *mes and *te. MIE enclitic *mas regularly becomes *n̥s via Syncope, and was then later extended analogically as *nos by the time of PIE proper. MIE 2pp oblique *te however (*tei in the nominative case) was replaced in the meantime by an inanimate noun *yáuas “(the) group”[1] (> early Late IE *yaus), thereby obscuring the ultimate source of later 2pp ending *-té.

If this is all correct, it's then probable to me that these alternative endings were first coined as early as the late Mid IE period and that dialectal replacement of *-méni and *-téni by *i-less, pronoun-derived alternatives *-més and *-té began to spread during the Late IE period.

Thus I think we now have a sensible solution to the reconstruction of the Old IE objective endings preceding the agglutination of “indicative” postclitic demonstrative *əi (> PIE *-i):

1st person*-əm*-mənə
2nd person*-əs*-tənə
3rd person*-ə*-ənə

Furthermore, we may possibly reconstruct both the singular and plural independent pronoun forms for the first and second persons with greater depth:

1st person*məi (nom.)*wəi (nom.)
*mə (enc.)*məs (enc./obl.)
*mə́nə (obl.)
2nd person*tau (nom.)*təi (nom.)
*tʷə (enc.)*tə (enc./obl.)
*tə́nə (obl.)

And now everything in the 3000 years prior to PIE is explained...

... Or is it?! Alas, my work is never done. Happy Halloween, everyone!

[1] The basic root *yeu- "to bind, join together" is acknowledged in Mallory/Adams, The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World (2006), p.522 (see link). It is also deemed the underlying root of extended *yeu-g- with identical meaning which is the source of inanimate thematic *yugóm "a yoke" as expounded upon by Szemerényi, Introduction to Indo-European Linguistics (1999), p.272, fn.10 (see link).

29 Oct 2008

The trouble with the PIE 1st & 2nd person plural endings (2)

(Continued from The trouble with the PIE 1st & 2nd person plural endings.)

My goal in this latest blog rant is to find a pleasing reconstruction of the Old IE (OIE) objective conjugation, that is, the antecedent of Proto-Indo-European's (PIE) *mi-conjugation. I'll be referring back to Pre-IE sound changes as I've defined them in my online pdf in order to find my solution. Before we can arrive at a solution, however, we must piece together what happened with the first and second persons plural endings. I guess to keep this topic together, we first might peck off a few options of possible ancient protoforms. Here we go.

The first, most obvious post-IE innovation is *-mosi/*-mos/*-mo as might be based on Latin -mus or OIr. -m, for example. This must be a new phenomenon that, at the very least, postdates Schwa Diffusion since in order for *o to have developed in an unstressed syllable, *s would have to be voiced at the time. Yet, this is not possible because we know that the plural had unvoiced *s throughout the Late IE period, that it was unaccented and that its preceding vocalism was *e as a result. Likewise, just in case some may think that *-mes was instead the product of 1ps *-m and 2ps *-s “you” (i.e. “I and you” → “we (inclusive plural)”), the same problem arises and *e is yet again the expected vocalism since it is afterall what is found in the 2ps thematic presentive ending, *-e-si (never **-o-si). So no matter how you slice and dice the 1pp ending, forms like *-mo[s(i)] must be patterned on something else, something later. Indeed, it is no doubt affected by the independent pronoun *nos “we” (in turn a late derivative of unaccented PIE *n̥s < MIE *mas). Surely this is a post-IE form and has no bearing on PIE, let alone Pre-IE. So let's toss these endings in the trashcan straight away!

Next up are the 1pp variants *-més/*-mé and 2pp *-té. In this grouping, we observe an accent that should not be there since etymologically speaking, the 1pp ending is surely nothing more than *-me- [first person pronominal stem] and *-(e)s [plural]. Judging by QAR, the plural marker was unaccented because it contained no word-final vowel in the stages preceding Syncope . In other words, even before Syncope, *-as was the MIE plural ending, not **-ésa. Further, this word-final *s is testimony to a most ancient event which I call Indo-Aegean Sibilantization. Ultimately this plural is related to Uralic plural *-t. The sibilantization of early Indo-Aegean *t would not have happened unless *t was word-final at the time (n.b. Sibilantization also explains the origin of *s/*t-heteroclitic stems in PIE like participles in *-wos). Subsequently as a result of a lack of word-final vowel in the Mid IE (MIE) plural, the plural could never have been voiced to **-ez in the Late IE period. Yet... we find accented athematic presentive 1pp and 2pp endings nonetheless. Why??? How??? And if the primary form were *-mési and secondary were *-més, then despite unexpected accent, the source of the pattern might be a little more transparent. However, the primary form was apparently *-més without *-i and the secondary was *-mé. The absence of *-i in the primary marker adds to the strangeness but it might suggest an archaicism. The loss of *-s in the secondary is no doubt by analogy with other late innovations such as the secondary middle endings with its similar loss of *-r ultimately inspired by the inherited loss of final *-i in secondary active forms from pre-IE times. At first glance, it's impossible to tell what exactly was going on with this particular group of endings because of a few things obscuring the problem, so let's move on and come back to this group of endings later on.

Next up: the *-mén(i)/*-tén(i) group. More later.

(Continue reading The trouble with the PIE 1st & 2nd person plural endings (3).)

26 Oct 2008

The trouble with the PIE 1st & 2nd person plural endings

I'm still thinking about a problem that I've never completely solved to full satisfaction yet so it's a good topic to amble through right now. It seems to me that the singular personal endings are easy enough to work backwards into Pre-IE. In the most ancient stages of Pre-IE, there must have surely been two completely different sets of endings, one used for objective/active (i.e. the *mi-set) and the other for subjective/stative (i.e. the *h₂e-set). It's safe to say that the *-t- of the 3ps and 3pp active is merely an eroded form of deictic stem *to- which was attached before the Syncope rule. This ending must have then been fully entrenched in the language by late Mid IE. So far then, this leaves me in Old IE with objective singular *-em, *-es and *-e and subjective singular *-xa, *-ta and *-a. There may also have been a special stative set: *-x, *-t and *-0. The later so-called indicative *-i (or should it be renamed declarative?) must have been agglutinated to the existing objective endings in Mid IE at the time of QAR (Quasi-penultimate Accent Rule).

So what's so problematic? Well, look at how the 1pp and 2pp active endings are reconstructed for later Proto-Indo-European (PIE). The 1pp primary ending is apparently a slight embarrassment of numerous parentheses: *-mé[s/n](i). That is to say, it could be *-mé, *-més, *-mési, *-méni or all of the above for all we know. The secondary ending is supposed to be *-mé, or possibly *-mén, or maybe even *-més. Egad! The 2pp is also idiosyncratic because for some IE dialects, specifically the "internal IE" dialects, *-té must be prescribed for both the primary and secondary conjugation in the parent language (as well as for the 2pp imperative) while in other branches such as Anatolian, primary *-téni and secondary *-tén seem more in order. Despite the madness, we can thank our lucky stars that the athematic primary and secondary 1ps, 2ps, 3ps and 3pp endings are securely reconstructed as *-m(i), *-s(i), *-t(i) and *-ént(i) respectively, but the 1pp and 2pp endings are our bratty problem children.

Now, with that intellectual teaser, perhaps we should start trying to figure out what is going on with these two persons. Which variants of these endings are more archaic? Or are they all the same age? What should we reconstruct for the Old IE stage? What is the significance and origin of this *-n- plural marker in some dialects that replaces the far more productive plural ending *-(e)s? Why isn't the deictic *-i attached to the 1pp and 2pp primary endings in some dialects? And why isn't the plural marker *-(e)s attached to the 2pp as it is in the 1pp?

So many questions, so few answers. But don't worry. Glenny's been thinking very long and hard in the past week about this. I believe I have some solutions that I will share in subsequent blog entries because this is a large topic with lots of grammatical details to juggle. Stay tuned.

(Continue reading The trouble with the PIE 1st & 2nd person plural endings (2).)

20 Oct 2008

Updates on Semitic loans in Mid IE

Here it is. A new version of my original pdf listing possible Proto-Semitic loans in an early stage of Proto-Indo-European. Hopefully, many of the errors in the first draft have been ironed out to everyone's satisfaction.

Hosted by eSnips

As always, नमस्ते.

18 Oct 2008

The so-called imitative status of PIE *pneu- "to sneeze"

I don't have a lot of time to talk, folks, so I'll be brief about something bugging me lately. Recently, Bradshaw of the Future wrote in the article Sneeze and pneumatic about the origin of "sneeze" in PIE *pneu- calling it an imitative root. This is in fact a common description of this Indo-European root. However the question I'm posing here is: How do we really know that this is an imititative root?

The cold truth is that we don't. We only assume this to be true because of the semantic nature of the verb. So we should be cautious to distinguish solid facts from these sorts of unverified or unverifiable assumptions. I mean, I don't know about any of you, but personally my sneezes never sound anything close to "pneu".

I've been exploring an alternative origin of this word, not from an echoic origin, but rather as a possible Semitic loan. I've mentioned before in Pre-IE Syncope and possibly expanding the Metathesis rule that there may be some loans from Proto-Semitic that exhibit word-initial metathesis of consonants in PIE after experiencing the event of Syncope. Metathesis is one common tactic for renormalizing syllable structures after awkward clustering is caused by the disappearance of unstressed vowels. Such metathesis is guided by a universal rule in world languages known as sonorancy hierarchy. Certain clusters are universally avoided such as *rp- or *bft- for example. So if it's generally accepted that Pre-IE must have undergone Syncope, then it's naturally implied that awkward clusters like this should have occasionally arose and that there must have been a mechanism in place to restructure these roots.

So in that light, here's yet another hypothetical Semitic loan path to discuss amongst ourselves:

Proto-Semitic *napāḥu "to blow" → Mid IE *napéwa-

This would then become late MIE *nᵊpéwᵊ- (via Reduction) and then *pneu- by early Late IE via phonotactically motivated Metathesis in order to avoid the less desirable outcome of **npeu-.

Enjoy that thought. I know I do.

13 Oct 2008

Oops, I forgot about Thematicization

I've just updated my Diachrony of Pre-IE document. Click away on the link just below, my friends, click away:

Hosted by eSnips

It seems that, in all the immense details that I've deduced over the years on Pre-IE, I forgot about Thematicization which is what I call the point at which productive animate suffixes were derived from their inanimate counterparts by infixing a vowel schwa during the middle of the Late IE Period. I presume that the reason for this infixing is not because the schwa was an actual animatizing morpheme but rather by analogy with the fact that most animate stems happened to be thematic (i.e. stems ending in a schwa) while inanimate stems tended to be athematic (i.e. stems ending in a consonant).

I want to talk more on this because it relates to the eventual development of feminine gender in Post-IE dialects. That is, out of the ancient inanimate collective *-h2 would be forged a new animate collective *-eh2 that would later be used as a feminine marker. This also relates to the origin of Indo-European s-stems that Phoenix has recently been pondering on (and which made me ponder on lately).

(14 Oct 2008) Whoops, a teensy typo to fix in the text above. The phrase "while inanimate stems tended to be inanimate (i.e. stems ending in a consonant)" should have read "while inanimate stems tended to be athematic (i.e. stems ending in a consonant)."

4 Oct 2008

Youth Without Youth

I have no clue what the plot of this movie was about but I'm mentioning it nonetheless for the sake of its polyglot content. Created by Francis Ford Coppola (the guy who made Dracula in the 90s), the main plot of this film appears to be about a septuagenarian professor nearing the end of his life who is attempting to finish a book about the origin of language. He gets struck by lightning, coincidentally on the day of Easter (which I assume is some sort of rebirth symbolism), and is somehow, to the amazement of the doctors, rejuvenated into a man appearing only 40 years of age.

Crazy already, quite obviously. But if you think that's strange, the rest of the movie devolves into an even bigger cacaphony of plot twists and contrivances that'll blow your mind. Yet strangely, as I was watching it, I remained intrigued enough by the main character's insane journey to finish it. It even caused me to ponder on Coppola's purpose of the film days later. It's the kind of film that, despite being erratic and seemingly nonsensical, is still sufficiently crafted to make the inquisitive sort like myself to wonder if they'd missed something in the translation. Those who love the sounds of various languages will at the very least keep amused while attempting to identify each language being spoken, which may be either modern, ancient or fictional. Perhaps too, for all I know, there may be hints to the meaning of this film in the multilingual dialogue. Or... maybe not. If anyone has an explanation for this movie, I'm all ears.

(06 October 2008) As I continue to absorb this film, here's a comical movie review from New York Post. Apparently I'm not the only one that's confused by it.

28 Sept 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 Sept 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 Sept 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”.

29 Aug 2008

The Lost Vowels of Pre-Etruscan Syncope

It's been a while since I've wrote about issues concerning Aegean or Etruscan linguistics. However, lately the issue of lost vowels in Pre-Etruscan Syncope sprang to my busy mind.

Many suffixes that are consonant-final in Etruscan appear to come from vowel-terminating suffixes at some Pre-Etruscan. In fact the vowels were probably lost at a stage when Rhaetic, Lemnian and Etruscan were still the same undifferentiated tongue. So far, I think I can ascertain what some of these lost vowels were in some suffixes and words. For example, the Etruscan derivational suffix -aχ appears to have been in origin *-aku. “How can I be so certain?” you ask? Luckily, alternations exposing the past are still present in Etruscan such as seen in *araχ “falcon, hawk” (glossed as arakos by Hesychius) versus aracuna “(one) of the hawks or falcons” where former *u is preserved when the pertinentive suffix -na is attached. I've also ascertained so far that the intransitive participle was once *-ta whereas the homophonous agentive suffix (as in the names Aranθ and Vanθ) was once *-ti. I could be wrong but that's my theory so far.

Since all vowels seem to equally disappear word-finally during Pre-Etruscan Syncope, I would naturally assume that the transitive participle suffix -u must consequently come from an earlier diphthong *-au. In Minoan, this ending may indeed be preserved as a diphthong in the inscribed word DI-NA-U /'tʃinaw/ “moulded” in inscription HT 16 for example (c.f. Etruscan zinu).

That's where I'm at in regards to Pre-Etruscan Syncope so far but I still have a lot more questions to answer (and it certainly would be nice if an extensive Minoan document floated our way soon in order to make its translation a helluvalot easier).

27 Aug 2008

Determining typical forms behind Semitic verbal loans in Pre-IE

If one looks to Norman French and Middle English as a typical example of intense linguistic contacts between two historical languages in order to understand better the Proto-Semitic and Proto-IE contacts during the Neolithic, one may notice that only a small number of verbal forms in French loans typically surface in English. For example, many verbs were simply borrowed from the presentive form (c.f. French (il) part vs. English to part). However there are also many verbs which were borrowed into English based on French infinitives (c.f. French rendre vs. English to render which fossilizes the infinitive ending in -re).

Given that, I start to wonder if maybe it would be more organized on my part to compare Semitic and PIE verbs according to only a few specific verbal forms. So I've been thinking about how to answer the question “If I were to pick only two Proto-Semitic verb forms as sources of PIE loans, which would I pick that would fit most or all of the data the best?”

Based on the handy Semitic Binyanim pdf, my answer at this point would now have to be: 1) the nominative-declined active participle of the shape *CāCiCu and 2) the nominative-declined infinitive of the form *CaCāCu. This could account for almost all Semitic verbal loans that pop up in Mid IE, if we assume that Mid IE speakers simply ignored vocalic length (i.e. interpreting both PSem *a and as MIE *e), that MIE employed a fixed penultimate accent, and that the rule of Proto-Semitic accent by contrast was that it was to be either placed on the first available non-wordfinal “heavy syllable” (i.e. CV: or CVC) from left-to-right or on the initial syllable by default. Predictably, the irregular essive verb *yiθ (becoming PIE *h₁es-) would be an outlier from this general pattern and “to be” is a rather oddball verb cross-linguistically speaking.

So, I guess I need to update my SemiticPreIEloans.pdf document on esnips to reflect this. I hope that sounds a bit more organized than what I've been saying so far. Little by little, I'm gettin' there hopefully. Cross fingers.