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Re: Uto-Aztecan historical phonology

From:Brad Coon <bcoon@...>
Date:Tuesday, May 2, 2000, 0:00
dirk elzinga wrote:
> > On Mon, 1 May 2000, Nik Taylor wrote: > > > dirk elzinga wrote: > > > Here's a partial Uto-Aztecan cognate set for *tama 'tooth': > > > Nahuatl tlan- > > > > Interesting. But, how did the Nahuatl get that way? Did the /m/ become > > /w/, and then was lost? And where did the /l/ come from? > > I think that the *m became /n/ in Nahuatl, but I'm not sure. > PUA *t often became /tl/ adjacent to /a/ in Nahuatl (that should > be a voiceless lateral affricate). > > Nahuatl is the Uto-Aztecan language I know the least about; most > of my research has been confined to Numic, with brief excursions > to Tubatulabal, Hopi, and Takic (Luiseño and Cupeño are Takic), > all of which are Northern Uto-Aztecan languages. > > Dirk > > -- > Dirk Elzinga >
The dictionary form of 'tlan-' is 'tlantli' where the -tli is the socalled absolutive (not to be confused with the ergative:: absolute terminology to which it has no relation). Proto-Nahua *t >tl /_a, i.e., when it was followed by an /a/. Historically, the absolutive had become *-ta by the time Proto-Nahua emerged and prior to *t > tl soundshift indicated above. Through a variety of other soundshifts, the *-tla absol. become -tl, -li, and -tli depending upon the stem. Pre-proto Nahua should have been *tama-ta but the second /a/ was lost and the m > n due to assimilation. I am afraid I don't recall in what order the rules requiring the vowel loss occurred. The best source for Nahuatl historical phonology is Evolucion Phonologica del Nahuatl by K. Dakin. (and I probably got the title slightly wrong, all of my sources are at work.) Now somewhat dated, volume 1 of Studies in Uto-Aztecan Grammar (ed. by R. Langacker) has a good discussion of the evolution of the absolutive. The oldest existing Nahuatl texts, the Devils' Songs of the Florentine Codex contain some ambiguous forms with what might be -tla absolutives. It is more likely that they represent a poorly transcribed -tlan locative marker. Since it is hard to grasp the true meaning of 'poorly transcribed' until you have worked with the Devils' Songs as long as I have, it is still not certain, at least in my mind. -- Brad Coon Somedays when you wake up, its just not worth chewing through the leather straps.