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Re: Origin of Spanich /ch/ and /j/

From:Pablo David Flores <pablo-flores@...>
Date:Tuesday, November 26, 2002, 17:50
Isaac A. Penzev <isaacp@...> writes:

> Can anybody help me to find the origins of Spanish phonemes /ch/ and /j/ for > my Arabo-Romance project? > > I know that /ch/ in many positions originates from consonant clusters *-ct- > like in noche < *nocte and *-lt- like in escuchar < *a(u)scultare. But how > do we get all those _chiquitas_ and _muchachos_?
According to my dictionary, _chico_ (whence _chiquitas_) < Latin _ciccum_. I don't know about _muchachos_ (though -ach- is found in a few words with a despective/familiar meaning, like _mamarracho_). Apparently Latin /ki/ and /ski/ (sometimes /si/, as in /sifila:re/ > "chillar") became /tSi/ "chi" (note you wrote /ch/, but that's phonemic notation). Perusing through the dictionary, it seems like most of the words beginning with "ch" are borrowings, usually from French (_chaufeur_ > "chofer"), Nahuatl (_tzictli_
> "chicle"), Quechua (_chakra_ > "chacra"), or Arabic itself (_jali:ka_ >
"chaleco"), with a few ones from other Native American languages and others from English ("cheque").
> As for /j/. I know it hides several Old Spanish phonemes: /S/, /Z/, /dZ/.
You mean "j" (/x/). Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the sequence went like this: in Old Spanish there were both voiced and unvoiced fricatives, a pair of those being /S/ and /Z/ (written "x" and "j"). OS then lost voice distinction for fricatives, so they merged into /S/ (that's how "x" and "j" got mixed up, though later "j" prevailed, except in "México", of course). Then /S/ became /x/. Maybe the distinction was lost later and there were /x/ and /G/ for a while; I'm not sure. Portuguese preserved the postalveolar point of articulation where Spanish moved it back into the velar position. As for /L/, consider that the postalveolar/palatal approximants in Spanish are rather voluble. In Argentina and many other places, "ll" /L/ and "y" /j/ have merged into [j\] or [Z] (barely voiced). If this has been happening for a few centuries, it's likely /L/ > /Z/ got caught in the postalveolar->velar shift. It'd be nice to know why the older instances of /tS/ didn't become /kx/... --Pablo Flores "The future is all around us, waiting, in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain." -- G'Kar quoting G'Quon, in "Babylon 5"


John Cowan <jcowan@...>
Nik Taylor <yonjuuni@...>