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Syllabic resonants, was Re: Gweinic Description: Phonology and Roots (Corrections)

From:Vasiliy Chernov <bc_@...>
Date:Tuesday, June 6, 2000, 15:14
On Mon, 5 Jun 2000 16:14:13 CDT, Anthony M. Miles
<theophilus88@...> wrote:
>Do Slovak and Czech possess only short syllabic resonants?
Czech has only short [r=] and [l=], but, interestingly, can oppose syllabic and non-syllabic [r] (some words with initial combination <rv> have non-syllabic [r]). Syllabic [n=] and [m=] occur mainly in loanwords (e.g. ending in [-Izm=]) and tend to acquire a short vowel in the colloquial language (e. g. [-IzUm]). Slovak has both short and long [r=] and [l=] (but, IIRC, no syllabic parallel to its third liquid, the palatal<ized> [l']). Serbian/Croatian has only [r=], which can be long and short and carry all four accents, as well as occur in combinations like [pr=.o] (disyllabic; perhaps in fact []; historically, < monosyllabic [pr=l]; I forget the exact translation, but the Russian parallel sounds [p'or] and means '<he> was carrying with difficulty').
>What do >they correspond to in Russian?
Oh, this requires a whole lecture in historical phonetics... If *very* short: PIE combinations like TR=(:)T- (T for any obstruent, R for '[r] or [l]') became TIRT- (sometimes TURT- or TRIT-) in Proto-Slav (and Baltic; I and U stand for i-breve and u-breve, the two short vowels later treated as 'reduced' in Slav). All combinations of the types TURT-, TRUT-, TIRT-, TRIT- (of any origin) become TR=T- in languages like Czech and Serbian/Croatian (but different combinations at different time, at least in Czech; in Serbian/Croatian [l=] later becomes [u]). As TURT- and TIRT- violate the 'open syllable law', it is sometimes argued that they were pronounced TR=T- already in Proto-Slav, and actually haven't changed since the PIE times. A stage with TR=T- due to the 'open syllable law' is probable for some languages (including those preserving the syllabic resonants, like Czech, and those having lost them, like Bulgarian), but (IMO) hardly for the East Slavic ones (including Russian). No Slavic languages distinguish PIE TR=T- from PIE TuRT- or TiRT-, but Russian does distinguish TIRT- from TURT-. Russian treats I and U in TURT-, TRUT-, TIRT-, TRIT- the same way as any other I and U that cannot become zero because of their position. By the end of Old Russian period all such 'I's coincide with 'e', and all 'U's with 'o'. They were subject to all the regular changes typical of 'e' and 'o' (like [e] > [o] before "hard" consonants, quality changes in atonic position, etc.). The etymological spellings with <e> and <o> are preserved in most cases. Accordingly, the Russian correspondences for Czech (etc.) syllabic resonants are quite diverse... and the above accounts for only the standard Russian development, not dialectal words.
>On a similar note, I once designed an alien language (Klln [kl<syl>:n] or >some such name) that used syllabics much as other vowels, including >[a]+[l<syl>] as a diphthong <...>
A natlang parallel is provided by Lithuanian. It has no syllabic resonants, but combinations 'short vowel + [r], [l], [n] or [m]' function like diphthongs (and are termed 'diphthongic combinations'): they can carry two different accents, like ordinary diphthongs and long vowels, and unlike combinations with obstruents. It's really difficult to invent anything usable and having no natlang analogies... ;) Basilius