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The Monovocalic PIE Myth (was Germans have no /w/, ...)

From:Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg_rhiemeier@...>
Date:Tuesday, June 8, 2004, 21:20

On Tue, 8 Jun 2004 02:28:11 -0700,
Emily Zilch <emily0@...> wrote:

> [...] > > Incidentally, issue of marking resonants as syllabic is particularly > cogent when dealing with certain languages of New Guinea whose surface > representations show, say, typical five- to seven-vowel systems but > whose underlying phonemes require only ONE vowel plus vocalic forms of, > say, [ y ] & [ w ].
Why not call those phonemes /i/ and /u/ and say that they have non-syllabic as well as syllabic variants?
> For someone who struggled to understand the > theoretical system of PIE's earlier stages, it helped a LOT to see such > systems in RL (real life). > > Nota bene: for those who are not familiar, theories of earliest PIE > periods recommend a single vowel, usually marked as [ e ], with a > similar system of multiple surface realisations depending on stress > (i.e. later phonemicised into a two- or three-vowel system of [ e ] [ o > ] ~ [ e ] [ o ] [ a ], depending on your theory) and later consonantal > loss (i.e. vowel insertion &/or lengthening phonemicised due to loss of > the "laryngeals" or [ H_1-3 ]), plus the syllabification of resonants. > Some of this has only become evident in the most recent work on *PIE of > the stage preceding the Hittite split and others are just plain theory, > but now I can at least *believe* it is possible since it demonstrably > happens in living (RL, no offense meant o fellow conlangers) languages.
I don't think that PIE had only one vowel phoneme at any stage of its history. At the time of the breakup, it had the usual five vowels /a e i o u/ plus syllabic allophones of /m n l r/. And I think that pre-ablaut pre-PIE had three vowels /a i u/ of equal standing, which then all took part in ablaut. There was a pitch accent on the penultimate syllable, and a strong and a weak grade of each vowel, of which the strong grade occured under the accent and the weak grade elsewhere. The development (according to my theory) was thus: strong grade *á > *e *í > *ei *ú > *ou > *eu weak grade *a > *@ > *o/0 *i > *i *u > *u I.e., *i and *u did not change in weak grade and diphthongized in strong grade. The strong-grade *á became *e and weak-grade *a was weakened to schwa, which deleted in contexts where the resulting consonant cluster was acceptable or a nearby sonorant could double as syllable nucleus. This is the zero grade of the traditional ablaut theory. Where deletion of schwa would have resulted in an inadmissible consonant cluster, it remained in place and later became *o, which was then paradigmatized as a separate o-grade. Pre-ablaut pre-PIE might have had the diphthongs *ai and *au in addition to *a, *i and *u. Their strong grades would have merged with the strong grades of *i and *u, while the weak grades would have been *@i > *i and *@u > *u, thus the same as the weak grade of *i and *u. Hence, the diphthongs merged with the high vowels in both grades. How to tell whether the pre-ablaut form had *i or *ai (or, for that matter, *u or *au)? Phonotactics. *CeiC is from *CiC, while *Cei is from *Cai. Well, that's what I think about it. Comments welcome. Greetings, Jörg.


Roger Mills <rfmilly@...>
william drewery <will65610@...>
Joe <joe@...>