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Internal Reconstruction [was Re: Proto-Klingon?]

From:Thomas R. Wier <artabanos@...>
Date:Saturday, July 28, 2001, 14:43
Padraic Brown wrote:

> On Fri, 27 Jul 2001, Thomas R. Wier wrote: > > >Not really. When you only have one dialect to look at, > >you can do internal reconstruction based on alternations > >in that form alone. You can do this easily with English: > >look at allomorphs like "divine" /dIvaIn/ ~ "divinity" /dIvInIti/ > >and then, based on the data, determine what the protoform > >must have been for that dialect. > > Without knowing Latin, what proto form do you get?
You know, I really should not write responses to email when I haven't slept in nearly 24 hours. Okay, so internal reconstruction works by looking at variant forms within one language and then, operating on the assumption that there was original invariance, formulate hypotheses about which form was original. When doing this, you have to bring in knowledge about what kinds of soundchanges are likely to occur. The answer here happens to be /divin/, IIRC, but the Great Vowel Shift is rather complicated, and for purposes of showing the validity of internal reconstruction, I didn't give a very good example to do that. Let's say you have an alternation like the one in Latin between voiced and voiceless obstruents between the NomSg and the GenSg forms: NSg GenSg urp-s urb-is 'city' re:k-s re:g-is 'king' There are two possibilities here. (1) The voicless forms are original, and they become voiced intervocallically, or (2) the voiced forms are original, and they become devoiced by assimilation in voicing to the adjacent segment: (1) *urp-s *urp-is (2) *urb-s *urb-is *re:k-s *re:k-is *re:g-s *re:g-is Now, based on this information alone, there's no way for you to tell which one was original. But that's not the end of it: you can look for other words which don't show that alternation, and see if they follow one or the other pattern. So, in Latin you also have forms like NSg GenSg wo:k-s wo:k-is 'voice' stirp-s stirp-is 'root' These forms show that you don't have intervocalic voicing going on, and, assuming that soundchange operates in a regular fashion, that you can then confidently say that the original forms must have been like those in (2), and voicing assimilation occurred. That, in a nutshell, is how you do internal reconstruction. Because by definition internal reconstruction can show you a lot about the language's own internal history, historical linguists always use this method first, before any attempt to use comparative method, since shifts that happened just to one language had to have occurred after any posited break with a related sister tongue. =================================== Thomas Wier | AIM: trwier "Aspidi men Saiôn tis agalletai, hên para thamnôi entos amômêton kallipon ouk ethelôn; autos d' exephugon thanatou telos: aspis ekeinê erretô; exautês ktêsomai ou kakiô" - Arkhilokhos


Thomas R. Wier <artabanos@...>