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Starostin Again: Sino-Tibetan-Yenisey-Caucasian

From:Danny Wier <dawier@...>
Date:Wednesday, July 12, 2000, 10:24
More on linguistic comparative theory, and real-world examples of phonetic
complexity.  Altaic has its system of vowel harmony, which I demonstrated in my
last post.  (Starostin connects, so far, Altaic with Indo-European, Dravidian,
Uralic-Yukaghir and Kartvelian -- i.e. Nostratic without Afro-Asiatic data.

Another *possible* (less likely than Nostratic) superfamily, according to
Starostin's data, is Sino-Tibetan, Yeniseyan (inc. Ket) and North Caucasian.
(The Sino-Caucasian theory also includes, according to some, Basque and Na-Dene
-- the latter is a dubitative superfamily including Athabaskan, Tlingit, Haida
and Eyak.)  A rather large inventory is shown in two of the three member
families, and one in particular, Proto-North Caucasian, has a HUGE consonant

First, there's Sino-Tibetan, which is reconstructed without any tone
distinction (which apparently came later most markedly in Chinese).  The list
of consonants and vowels:

Labials: b bh m p ph P w
Dentals: d dh n r t th T
Alveolar: c ch C y 'n s j jh
  (c = ts; j = dz -- this is true throughout this post)
Palatal: 'c 'ch 'C 'n 'j 'jh
Lateral: l L tL
  (L = l-stroke; tL = lambda-stroke)
Velar: g gw gh ghw k kw kh khw K Kw N Nw x (xw)
Uvular: G Gw Gh Ghw q qw qh qhw Q Qw X Xw
  (Gh = gamma)
Glottal: ? ?w

There might be a few I missed somewhere; I'm expecting to see 's (s-acute).
Note capital letters mark ejectives (P T C 'C K Q), uvular stop (G), lateral
fricative (L), as well as plain-aspirated sets as well as labiovelarized
velars, uvulars and glottals.

High: i î ï -i -î -ï u û ü (short-lông-ültrashort)
Mid: e ê ë @ ^@ "@ o ô ö
Low: a â ä

Now on to Proto-North Caucasian.  This one's a doozy.


Labial: b p P f ff v m w
Dental: d t T dw tw Tw n r y
Alveolar: c cw j jw C Cw s sw z
  Geminate: cc ccw jj jjw CC CCw ss ssw
Postalveolar: ^c ^cw ^j ^jw ^C ^Cw ^s ^sw ^z
  Geminate:^cc ^ccw ^jj ^jjw ^CC ^CCw ^ss ^ssw
Palatal: 'c 'cw 'j 'jw 's 'sw 'z 'zw
  Geminate: 'cc 'ccw 'jj 'jjw 'ss 'ssw
Lateral: dl dlw tl tlw Tl Tlw hl hlw L l
  Geminate: ddl ddlw ttl ttlw TTl TTlw hll hllw
Velar: g gw k kw K Kw x xw
  Geminate: gg ggw kk kkw KK KKw xx xxw
Uvular: G Gw q qw Q Qw X Xw R Rw
  Geminate: GG GGw qq qqw QQ QQw XX XXw
Glottal-Pharyngeal: ? ?w h hw H Hw -? -?w -h -hw 6 6w

Notice labialized, geminate and ejective consonants.  The daughter languages
show various reflexes based on doubled consonants; Abkhaz-Adyghe-Ubykh
preserved the largest number and even develop more (labiopalatals in Abkhaz,
pharyngealized consonants in Ubykh).  (Or maybe the true nature of the
protolanguage has *fewer* consonants and/or vowels, and Starostin is just
biased towards Northwest Caucasian.)

What's more, I stole the barred glottal stop (IPA calls it a "epiglottal stop";
it could also be a glotto-phryngeal affricate) and included it in Tech.

High: i î ü ^ü -i -î u û
Mid: e ê @ ^@ o ô
Low: ä ^ä a â

Finally, Yenisseyan.  Fortunately, a more manageable inventory.


Labial: b p f m w
Dental: d t T n r l
Alveolar: j c s
Palatal: ^j ^c 'n 'r 'l y
Velar: g k K x
Uvular: G q X
Glottal: ? h

High: i î -i -î u û
Mid: e ê @ ^@ o ô
Low: ä ^ä a â å ^å

Starostin, for the record, has also reconstructed some
Chukchi-Kamchatkan-Itelmen.  I have no idea what this family might have in
common with another.  Eskimo-Aleut is a possible candidate... but Eskimo-Aleut
is considered by some to be Nostratic or Eurasian.

Bear in mind that I post this to promote ideas about phonology of conlangs, and
how to "spice up" a language.


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