Re: THEORY: A possible Proto-World phonology
|From:||dirk elzinga <dirk.elzinga@...>|
|Date:||Thursday, June 29, 2000, 16:23|
On Thu, 29 Jun 2000, Ed Heil wrote:
> And in case everything wasn't confusing enough, Winifred Lehmann rides up and
> claims "Pre-Indo-European" as a technical term for an older stage than
> Proto-Indo-European but one which has nothing to do with Nostratic;
> Pre-Indo-European was active, though Proto- became accusative;
> Pre-Indo-European had no reconstructible phonemic vowels*, while Proto- had e
> and o.
> Basically anything that is a really radical bit of reconstruction, and which
> is not *directly* reflected in the IE languages but is theoretically elegant
> or compelling in some way, he throws into Pre-Indo-European.
> *RE the lack of reconstructible phonemic vowels: Lehmann has been criticized
> on this list and elsewhere for this point, which seems rather like
> structuralism pushed too far -- it's rather like pointing out that because
> they are in complementary distribution, english [h] and [N] could be regarded
> as two different realizations of the same phoneme; while it's perfectly good
> on a certain theoretical level it is intuitively abhorrent. I'm not sure I
> feel that strongly about the "lack of vowels reconstruction" but in any case,
> Lehmann doesn't claim that Pre-IE was *pronounced* without distinctive vowels
> or anything nutty like that, only that the vowels were completely conditioned
> in quality by their context.
Many accounts of North-West Caucasian (Abkhaz, Ubykh,
Circassian, Kabardian, etc) posit a minimal vowel system (1 or 2
or 3) which balloons into 12-16 surface vowel qualities
depending on the environment. What Lehmann proposes is something
similar, IIRC. The contrast isn't among vowels of different
qualities, but rather between a Vowel and Not a Vowel. Where
there is a Vowel, its quality is determined solely according to
context, just as you've said. Typological reconstructionists
have used this feature (among others) to posit a link between
PIE and Proto-NW-Caucasian.
BTW, Salish languages do this, too. Hmmmm.