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A little phonology riddle in Urianian.

From:Lars Finsen <lars.finsen@...>
Date:Monday, February 5, 2007, 0:59
I have been wondering for quite a while what the rather common
Urianian z lexeme might signify. The obvious thing, which I assumed
for many years, is a voiced s, giving such names as Zip, Zagyl, Zilig
etc. a nice, barbaric sound. However as it commonly occurs next to
unvoiced stops, as in Zpi, Zperin and Riglitz, it started me
wondering. Having a voiced s in these environments doesn't sound
right. It is of course possible, but likely? I wondered for a while
if the z in these or all the environments were a fossil from an
earlier phase where a voiced s once had existed, but now had been
unvoiced as a result of being placed next to an unvoiced stop due to
a voicing change in the stop or the ellipse of a formerly intervening
phoneme. Urianians became acquainted with the Latin alphabet in the
early centuries of this Era, and started using it themselves before
500 CE.

One of my first breakthroughs in understanding Urianian etymology was
when I found the name Tumunuk in an eastern dialect area and
remembered the name Demnig from the central highland dialect area
which is the basis for the modern written language (because the first
modern academy was founded there in 1833). Then I also remembered the
IE root *Tumon- with a meaning that's suitable for a personal name,
and realised that the eastern dialect had changed the vowels while
keeping the consonants unchanged, while the central one had voiced
the stops and made some further vowel changes. I think both names
strongly indicate an initial stress for Urianian.

Eventually I found that central Urianian as a general rule had simply
voiced all the IE unvoiced unaspirated stops and unvoiced all the
voiced ones. Rather curious, but it simply was the best way I could
fit the names onto the IE roots. Possibly it could have happened
through later aspiration changes. In the other dialects this change
is not so complete. Western lowland dialects have voiced the initial
p and all final unvoiced unaspirated stops, but left the initial k
and t unvoiced. Eastern lowland dialects retain the initial p as well
as the final ones, if my analysis so far is right.

Another striking feature of Urianian names is the absence of clusters
beginning with s-, which is very common in all other IE languages.
Now, the western lowland names, which were the first ones I analysed,
still retain a small number of names beginning with P-, such as
Panyl, Piz, Pren, and I found that I could fit them onto IE roots
beginning with *sp-, some easily and some with rather more of a
struggle. I then theorised that Urianian after the voicing changes
had lost the initial cluster s, and that unvoiced stops after the s
had been protected from voicing by the presence of the s.

Now back to the z. Since IE has no voiced s, I wondered what could
have given rise to it in modern Urianian. I decided that aspirated
stops were the best candidates, as they are affricated in many
languages. And indeed many Z- names seemed to fit very well with IE
dh- roots. Names beginning with labiodentals weren't uncommon either,
so I had a place for the IE bh-. The IE gh- found a home when I
realised that the eastern dialect had many names with initial H-, a
lexeme which is missing from other dialect areas, indicating that the
gh- was lost there and remained as probably a glottal approximant
only in the east.

Now the question was does the modern Urianian z signify a voiced
dental fricative, or has it developed into the usual voiced alveolar
one? Not an improbable change I think, but then I had those 'zp' and
'tz' combinations to consider. I also found a number of names
starting in Zt- and Zk-, including some place names. The distribution
gives a clue, because they occur mainly in the east and south, while
the west and central areas were nearly devoid of them. The exceptions
comprise mainly the popular names Zpi and Zperin, with variants,
which may have been imported. The west contains some 'tz', though.

When I examined the forms, the conclusion seemed unavoidable that
they reflect IE *sk-, *sp- and *st- roots, and that the initial s was
retained in the east and south in the form of a sound that can be
written with a z. There is no sign of the frequent IE *skr-, *spr-
and *str- clusters, but there is plenty of kr-, pr- and tr-, so I
assume that s before double consonants was lost completely very
early. What does this all mean? Is the z really an s? But there are
many names containing an s, and there is usually no problems finding
an IE s-containing root for them. There is usually no problems
finding an IE dh-containing root for them either, but a little more
difficult, and I think the Urianian s is the IE s, the simplest

Then I considered the devoicing of the d in Central Urianian. Could
the dh also have been devoiced? The d is not devoiced in Western
Urianian, which used to be cultural focus of Urianian before Azurian
took over during the first half of the last millennium. And I suppose
the usage of z for the voiced dental fricative might have started
there, and maybe they even had evolved it into a voiced alveolar
fricative, (though z for dental fricatives is not stranger than other
usages for the z), while the central highlanders then perhaps later
used it for their corresponding unvoiced dental fricative. Then the
southern highlanders and the easterners also used it for the
fricative they used before unvoiced stops and which they somehow
distinguished from the s. I guess this must mean that s before
unvoiced stops have developed into something other than an alveolar
fricative and most likely into an unvoiced dental fricative or
something very like it.

So that's the conclusion I have so far. Plausible or not. I'd be glad
if someone could give their opinion on this, or any comment at all.

Anyhow I've enjoyed giving so much time to this. I even considered
declining to go out and watch some skating, my other main hobby,
instead of sitting here and finishing it. But skating won.

Now for some work.

Posted by
LEF - the Jack of One Trade...
(Or can I still have another?)