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