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Yay! My 1000th post! Some Old Albic historical phonology

From:Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg_rhiemeier@...>
Date:Monday, July 16, 2007, 15:44

This is my 1000th post to the CONLANG list, and within this post,
I am going to present a facet of the historical phonology of
Old Albic, namely the development of the vowels, about which
I have found out some new things lately.

Old Albic has seven short and seven long vowels, transcribed
_a e i o ø u y_ (short) and _á é í ó ǿ ú ý_ (long).
Proto-Albic, however, the reconstructed common ancestor of all
Albic languages and dialects, had only three, namely *a, *i and *u,
without length distinction.

So how die the 2*7 vowels of Old Albic evolve from the three vowels
of Proto-Albic?  First, I will concentrate on the short vowels.
In Proto-Albic, the vowel features [+open], [+front] and [+round]
became autosegmental, which means that they attached to morphemes
rather than vowel segments.  In a sense, there was only one "vowel
phoneme", transcribed _°_, and three prosodic features.  This can
be summarized in the rules given in (1):

(1) a > °[+open]
    i > °[+front]
    u > °[+round]

So, a Proto-Albic compound word such as *hajal-um-i 'with both eyes'
was realized as something like this:

(2)  [+open] [+round] [+front]
          |     |     /
          |     |    /
        h°j°l  -°m -°

This shows how a bisyllabic morpheme, such as *hajal 'eye', has the
same feature attached to both vowels.  Proto-Albic did not allow
morphemes with two different vowels.

In Proto-Albic, each morpheme had at most one feature attached.
In Old Albic, there are also morphemes with two features attached,
which are realized at the surface as /e/ ([+open] and [+front])
and /o/ ([+open] and [+round]).  An example is the Old Albic word
for 'eye', _hela_.  Such words result from the deletion of
semivowels combined with the addition of a vowel feature.  Words
of the types CeC and CoC come from two kinds of protoforms,
namely *CajaC-/*CavaC- and *CaiC-/*CauC-.  In both cases, the
semivowel is deleted and the corresponding feature added, with
the two vowel positions merging in the first type:

(3) *°j° > °[+front]
    *°v° > °[+round]

(4) *j > Ø[+front] /°C$ ($=syllable boundary)
    *v > Ø[+round] /°C$

The change (3) is very common; among many other words (such as
*hajal > hel 'eye') it affected the gender derivation suffixes,
which were *-va (male) and *-ja (female) in Proto-Albic.
Together with the agentive stem forming suffix *-a they gave
the Old Albic forms -o < *-a-va and -e < *-a-ja.

The change (4) underlies many words with mid vowels and final
obstruents, such as boc- < *bauc- 'to flee'.  Because diphthongs
which were not followed by tautosyllabic consonants (consonants
within the same syllable) were unaffected, alternations between
mid vowels and diphthongs were the result, e.g.

(5)     obosca  < *°-bauc-sa 'he fled' (aorist)
    vs. baucara < *bauc-a-ra 'he flees' (present)

Roots of the shape CeRC-/CoRC- come via (3) from *CajaRC-/*CavaRC-,

(6) vern < *vajarn 'good'

Some Old Albic bisyllabic roots such as _semel_ 'wheat' appear
not to be covered by the rules given above.  These are usually
compounded or derived forms.  The Proto-Albic origin of _semel_,
for instance, is *sajam-al, a derivative of *sajam- 'to sow'
(OA _sem-_), which became *sem-al under rule (3) and later

In Old Albic, there is also an umlaut rule in operation.
If a vowel has only one feature attached, this feature spreads
to the preceding morpheme.  Hence, high vowels preceding /a/
are lowered; back vowels preceding /i/ are fronted; unround
vowels preceding /u/ are rounded.  Examples:

(7) sach              'shoe'
    sochum < *sach-um 'pair of shoes'
    sechim < *sach-im 'shoes'

Under this rule, two new vowels could arise, the front rounded
vowels /ø/ and /y/.  The word in (2) became, for example, _helymi_.

What is now left to explain are the long vowels.  These result
from two sources, namely the loss of /h/, occasionally also
other consonants, between vowel and consonant with compensatory
lengthening, and the contraction of two short vowels of the same
quality, as in

(8) baráma < *bar-a-a-ma 'I carry it'

Thank you for reading all this.  I hope you enjoyed it.
Now for the next 1000 posts!

... brought to you by the Weeping Elf


Elliott Lash <erelion12@...>