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Proposal: Sound Change Documentation Project

From:Peter Clark <peter-clark@...>
Date:Saturday, April 27, 2002, 5:41
        Well, as if I didn't already have enough projects, my tired brain thought of
yet another idea: a collection or dictionary, if you will, of sound changes.
The thought occured to me as I considered the changes that occured in
Proto-Enamyn that resulted in Enamyn today. Earlier this year, I did some
research on historical linguistics, but didn't find much in the way of actual
information on possible sound changes. All the books will say that some sound
changes are more likely than others, but don't bother to elaborate much
beyond that.
        I know the Great English Vowel shift, Grimm's Law, and a couple of others,
but not much more than that. This is a pretty limited field to get ideas for
sound changes. What changes to r, and what does r change to? Furthermore, I
don't know how common certain sound changes are. For instance, which has a
higher degree of probability: k > x or x > k?
        So the ideal dictionary would cover as many sounds as we can think of, along
with a rough approximation of the likelihood of such a change. A three or
four value scale of infrequent-occasionaly-common-often would give
wiggle-room while still giving a good idea of the possibility. For instance,
VhV > VV would probably be classified as "often," while VV > VhV would
probably be "infrequent."
        For instance, here's a small dictionary that combines Grimm's law with some
of the sound changes between Germanic and High German (plus a little
dialectal variation thrown in):

b > p (PIE > Germ.)
b_h > b (PIE > Germ.)
Vd > t (Germ. > HighG.)
d > t (PIE > Germ.)
d_h > d (PIE > Germ.)
g > k (PIE > Germ.)
g_h > g (PIE > Germ.)
Vk > x (Germ. > HighG.)
k > kx (Germ. > dialectal Ger.)
k > x (PIE > Germ.)
Vp > f (Germ. > HighG.)
p > f (PIE > Germ.)
p > pf (Germ. > HighG.)
Vt > s (Germ. > HighG.)
t > ts (Germ. > HighG.)
t > T (PIE > Germ.)

        Of course, there would need to be a reverse-lookup for those who want to
back-form a protolanguage:

b < b_h (Germ. < PIE)
d < d_h (Germ. < PIE)
f < Vp (HighG. < Germ.)
f < p (Germ. < PIE)
g < g_h (Germ. < PIE)
k < g (Germ. < PIE)
kx < k (dialectal Germ < Germ.)
p < b (Germ. < PIE)
pf < p (HighG. < Germ.)
s < Vt (HighG. < Germ.)
t < Vd (HighG. < Germ.)
t < d (Germ. < PIE)
ts < t (HighG. < Germ.)
T < t (Germ. < PIE)
x < Vk (HighG. < Germ.)
x < k (Germ. < PIE)

        Note that I did not include any information on likelihood of such a change,
because I don't know. :)
        Also, since sound changes often occur en masse, there would need to be a
chart section, showing, for instance, the wide changes brought on by Grimm's
law, or the effect that preceeding vowels had in determining the sound change
between Germanic and High German. This would probably form the third part of
the dictionary.
        However, all of this would be too much for me to research, so here's where I
would need some help in gathering data. What say you all? Is this a project
that people would find useful and helpful? I'm willing to compile the data
into presentation form, but I need a wide data sample, preferably from
different language families.


Nik Taylor <fortytwo@...>