6 Feb 2012

Thoughts to think about next...

Alas, I have no methodically thought-out post for you all today. It's not as if I don't have thoughts to write about but it takes some time to structure ideas, find relevant links and get out nicely proved points. So I'll just simplify my life this week and jot out half-thought-out ideas. Some commenters out there might have unexpected perspectives to add on some of these things so it's constructive to share in whatever small way we can. Consider this "Glen's January 2012 leftovers", a big pile of leftover thoughts demanding my attention lately, loose threads that need to be tied.

Old Chinese phonology problems

Baxter-Sagart's Old Chinese uvular stops still irk me. I need to resolve that problem in my head. While I'm well aware of the reasons they use for proposing this, nothing can convince me that this reconstruction is sound. Oh sure, the phonemes may be properly identified in abstract terms at least, but these sounds are certainly not mapped properly to real-world phonetics and this is a flaw that needs to be fixed. When I see their sign for a labialized, aspirated, pharyngealized uvular stop, my mind keeps screaming "Bullocks!" The unnecessary complexity of some of their phonemes is beyond sanity. Yet what creates a problem is that they have some interesting evidence for reconstructing the uvular stops in the first place, based on an aspirated/plain/voiced alternation in some roots, the same as already established for pre-existing plosives. Thus Baxter and Sagart reconstruct *q/*qʰ/ even though every fiber of my being reviles this suspiciously rare series.

Mysteries of the Piacenza Liver

My eyes are focused on the "celestial" region of the interior portion. My previous analysis has been that tlusc arc should be reconstructed as *Tluschval Arcam 'Bow of Tluschva (Seas)', hence the rainbow as messenger of the gods (like Greek Iris). Going with this and my prior identification of the eight gods seated in the shadow of the prominent "celestial peak" as male-female pairs of the four winds, I wonder more about the significance of this structure and the significance of each character in the pantheon. The concept of such a rainbow deity coupled with the wind gods reminds me of Greek myth regarding the rainbow goddess Iris and her sisters, the Harpies. A connection? Are Harpies just wind gods in the end? What is the nature of the pairs I observe among the wind gods? Catha (Earth) and Fufluns (Hades) seem to represent the west, the direction of the setting sun as it sets into the underworld. Tins Thneth (Thundering Tinia) and Thufaltha (Truth) then should represent east (the rising sun). This leaves Tins Thufal (Tinia of Oath) and Lasa (presumably like Venus) in the south and Lethams (Rivers) and Tul(??) in the north. But then perhaps I've paired them improperly. What I need is an analogy with surrounding religious beliefs of that period with this same motif.

I also need to find an analogy to the six infernal gods seated around in a wheel pattern on the opposite side of the liver. Is this an omphalos in the center of it? How should all these things be tied together conceptually? What are the analogical concepts behind these interesting representations of the cosmos?

Phonation, root and tone in Pre-Indo-European

I had a flashback of some unresolved business between Phoenix and I regarding the reasons for why known Indo-European phonotactic rules in a monosyllabic root show us that only voiceless stops can co-exist, or voiced breathy stops can, but not both types at once. Curiously, the voiced plain (ie. creaky voiced stops in the revised phonology) can coexist with either voiceless stops or voiced breathy stops just fine. There are even apparent alternations between voiced and unvoiced variants of a same underlying root. Does this indicate "phonation harmony" across a syllable? Or tone? How can it properly fit in my model of Old and Mid IE? I haven't come up with firm answers yet but then again, I haven't devoted enough time on it.


  1. Since we're throwing ideas against the wall to see if anything sticks: any connection between Lethams "Rivers" and the Greek Λήθη?

  2. All exciting questions! I'm curious to see what will come out of it.

  3. Ketsuban, this is exactly what I've been wondering. If Lethams means specifically 'He of the streams' (from *leθa 'river' + -am [mass noun] + -is [agent]), then *leθa as 'river' would give an interesting spin on the etymology of Greek Lethe because it would suggest that the myth of streams flowing into Hades came first and foremost (described with the term *leθa by the original Minoan-Cyprian population).

    Based on this footing it would be later elaborated upon by the Greeks by way of this bilingual word-pun. So then a mutated form of the story would develop such that four rivers from the four directions of the world didn't just flow into Hades but also that the waters could somehow bring about forgetfulness in the afterlife, presumably to finally relieve the deceased one of life's inevitable regrets.

  4. I'm certainly in favor of reading what you come up with any of these three topics.