In my study of Udmurt and Komi, I have produced an English translation of the chapter on Permian vowels from Raija Bartens’s Permiläisten kielten rakenne ja kehitys (The Structure and Development of the Permian Languages, Helsinki: Finno-Ugrian Society, 2001). While Bartens’s book no longer represents the state of the art in Uralic linguistics, and in the years since Sándor Csúcs has shaken the field up with such publications as Die Rekonstruktion der permischen Grundsprache (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 2005), Permiläisten kielten rakenne ja kehitys does provide a helpful introduction to 20th-century work on Permian vocalism.
The literary standards of both Permian languages have the same inventory of seven vowels:
However, this does not mean that the Proto-Permian system was the same. Linguists studying the Permian languages have always been confounded by the large differences in vocalism in their common lexicon. Evidence from Udmurt and Komi dialects as well as the Old Komi writings show that the vowel system of Proto-Permian was larger.
The vowel inventory of the Permian languages has been the subject of many large investigations: Itkonen’s Permiläisen vokaali‑ ja painotusopin alalta (1951) and Zur Geschichte des Vokalismus der ersten Silbe im Tscheremissischen und in den permischen Sprachen (1953–54); Lytkin’s Istoričeskij vokalizm permskih jazykov (1964); Harms’ Split, Shift and Merger in the Permic Vowels (1967); Itkonen’s Spuren der Quantitätskorrelation der Vokale im Syrjänischen (1971); Janhunen’s Uralilaisen kantakielen sanatosta (1981); Rédei’s Geschichte der permischen Sprachen (1988); Sammallahti’s Historical Phonology of the Uralic Languages (1988). The following description represents essentially the work of Sammallahti.
Sammallahti assigns the following inventory of 8 vowels to Proto-Udmurt:
Sammallahti bases his reconstruction on the same Udmurt forms as Lytkin (1964: 231ff.). Besides the literary language and the dialects that it is derived from (= literary-language type) the Southwest and Besserman dialects also provide information. The vowel system of the Southwest dialects (Kel’makov & Saarinen 1994; these are the Šošma as well as part of the Kukmorin and Bavlyn southern peripheral dialects) have 8 vowels. The number of vowels in the literary-language type is 7 and in the Besserman dialect 6. According to Kel’makov, in part of the southern peripheral dialects there is also a reduced vowel (part of the Kukmorin and Bavlyn dialects) or even two reduced vowels; they also have a vowel ä (Kel’makov & Saarinen 1994: 40; ä is a late Tatar influence). Thus the vowel inventories of some southern peripheral dialects can contain from 9 to 11 vowels (Kel’makov & Saarinen 1994: 40). On the other hand, a vowel inventory as small as the Besserman dialect, with 6 vowels, is found in one southern peripheral dialect, the Kanlyn dialect (Kel’makov & Saarinen 1994: 39).
The Proto-Permian vowels according to Sammallahti’s reconstruction are reflected in the modern languages as the following:
|literary-language type||u||i̮||u||i||o||ȯ, e̮||e||a|
The literary-language type has therefore lost the high rounded front vowel *ü. It has fallen together with the high rounded back vowel u. In part of the literary-language type dialects, from the mid central unrounded vowel (e̮) has arisen the mid-central rounded vowel ȯ.
In the Besserman dialect the Proto-Udmurt high front rounded vowel (*ü) and the high central unrounded vowel (*i̮) have fallen together. Kel’makov views the resulting vowel as reduced (Kel’makov & Saarinen 1994: 39). Lytkin (1964: 16, 187; 1961: 24ff.) defines this ɵ vowel as a mid and back vowel but closer to a central vowel than rounded u and o. In part of the Besserman dialects the mid central unrounded vowel *e̮ has merged with the corresponding front vowel e.
In the SW dialects the central unrounded vowels are rounded. Furthermore the high rounded front vowel *ü has moved back and become a central vowel (*i̮ > ɵ, *e̮ > ȯ, *ü > u̇).
Generally in these changes that came after the Proto-Udmurt period, a vowel has been rounded or it has moved back (the change *e̮ > e in the Besserman dialect is an exception). The Proto-Udmurt vowel inventory has been presented above in a table; it can be seen that the changes have impacted the vowels in the middle of the table. Thus the vowel *ü that Sammallahti reconstructs for Proto-Udmurt has not been preserved in any dialect. He does not reconstruct this vowel for Proto-Komi.
Sammallahti reconstructs an inventory of 10 vowels for Proto-Komi, of which 3 are reduced and 7 full vowels:
The essential data for the Proto-Komi vowel inventory is provided by the Old Komi writings as well as Komi-Yazva and the Upper-Sysola dialect which are of archaic character. Also, in part of the Upper-Vyčegda dialects, to the central unrounded vowels of other dialects (i̮, e̮) correspond the rounded mid vowels u̇ and ȯ, which Lytkin (1964: 187ff.) considered also an archaic feature. In the Komi literary language, which is based on the Mid-Vyčegda dialect, there is an inventory of 7 vowels, likewise in the Upper-Vyčegda dialect described by Sammallahti. In the Upper-Sysola dialect there are 8 vowels, in the Old Komi writings 9 vowels and in Komi-Yazva there is an inventory of 10 vowels. Sammallahti reconstructed 10 vowels also for Proto-Komi, of which 3 are reduced. The quite archaic-looking Komi-Yazva system is naturally explained by this hypothesis. Already in 1952, Lytkin ascribed a reduced vowel background to three unstressed vowels in Komi-Yazva (u, ɵ, i). However, by his 1964 history of the Permian vowel inventory he had changed his mind and did not reconstruct reduced vowels for either Proto-Komi or Proto-Permian. Instead, he hypothesized that vowel quantity continued into the Pre-Permian stage (Lytkin 1964: 17).
In Sammallahti’s reconstruction, the Proto-Komi vowels correspond to the vowel inventories of the Old Komi writings, the literary language and the dialects in the following way:
|Old Komi writings||u||i̮||i||o||e̮||e||å||e̮||ä||a|
(The table above was drawn from Sammallahti 1998: 533–534.)
Itkonen reconstructed an inventory of 11 vowels for Proto-Permian. The distinguishing feature of his reconstruction is an inventory classified according to four degrees of height. Besides high, mid and low vowels, between the high and mid vowels there is a series of tense mid vowels:
(According to Itkonen 1951: 449; 1953–54: 332. Later, in 1971: 25, Itkonen thought it possible that the earlier representative of i̮ had been a central rounded vowel ɯ.)
In his history of Permian vocalism, Lytkin (1964: 228ff.) reconstructed an inventory based on a similar system of four degrees of height. His reconstructed Permian vowel system is presented in the following chart:
Thus in Lytkin’s reconstruction there are 14 vowels and in Itkonen’s 11. Lytkin’s reconstruction furthermore has three front rounded vowels. Incidentally, it should be noted that Itkonen and Lytkin’s reconstructions of four degrees of height are along the same lines; both scholars were researching the same thing at the same time, but unaware of each other’s work.
A vowel system can have at most four degrees of height, though such systems are rare (Crothers 1978: 119). Harms (1967: 167), who appealed to earlier studies, believed this impossible:
In general, no language is known to possess four (or more) phonemic degrees of tongue height (i.e., any such phonetic difference is always better analyzed in terms of other features). According to Harms, there would be no grounds for the large number of rounded vowels that Lytkin reconstructs:
the universal constraints … rule out … more than two rounded vowels at any given tongue height (ibid.). Crothers does not propose this in his catalogue of universals. (According to the universals proposed by Crothers, the degrees of height in a vowel system are equal to or greater than the degrees of frontness, that is, there can be at most four degrees of frontness; in the greater part of the languages of the world, there can be at most three, however, and the same goes for degrees of height.
Harms believed that any vowel series with four degrees of height must be analyzed in a different way. The way that Harms chose is a lax/tense opposition (Harms 1967: 170). He defined tenseness as follows:
It is used here as a marker of quantity and stress attraction (ibid. 175) Thus all Proto-Permian vowels would have been full vowels; besides defining three series based on height, there would also be a series of long vowels that take the main stress.
Sammallahti went in a different direction. He does not reconstruct a quantitative opposition for Proto-Permian but an opposition between reduced vowels and full vowels. Sammallahti’s reconstruction for Proto-Permian is the following:
Among the high full vowels there are thus three round vowels in spite of Harms’s criteria. For the first three Pre-Permian stages, Sammallahti also reconstructs – like Lytkin – a mid front rounded vowel ö (Sammallahti 1988: 527).
From the Pre-Proto-Permian, or Finno-Permian, vowel system (Itkonen ibid. 332, Sammallahti ibid. 523, only Sammallahti reconstructs a mid central vowel)
the Proto-Permian vowel system differs, according to Itkonen’s as well as Lytkin and Sammallahti’s treatment, essentially in annulling the old Proto-Finno-Ugrian and Proto-Finno-Permian quantitative opposition that existed in the mid and high vowels. According to Sammallahti, the new opposition of full and reduced vowels that he reconstructs would have arisen already in the Pre-Proto-Permian stage, though only at the end of this period. (Sammallahti divides the development of vowels into four Pre-Proto-Permian stages and then a following Proto-Permian stage. It bears remembering that, assuming the commonly held chronology is correct, the “Proto-Permian” stage would have lasted over two thousand years, thus there is a reason to speak of different Pre-Proto-Permian eras and then a true Proto-Permian stage that followed them.) This Proto-Permian opposition would have survived in Proto-Komi, but Proto-Udmurt has lost it according to Sammallahti.
Sammallahti thus reconstructs an opposition between reduced and full vowels impacting high vowels in Proto-Permian and later Proto-Komi. A similar opposition in the same portion of the vowel system is found in a language that has had a significant influence on Proto-Permian: Volga Bulgarian, or Old Chuvash (Itkonen 1970: 272; Rédei & Róna-Tas 1972: 272). Words were borrowed from this language into Proto-Permian; a discussion of its influence on Permian syntax as early as the Proto-Permian era will come later in this book. Another Finno-Ugrian language which Old Chuvash (and eventually Modern Chuvash) has greatly influenced has also developed an opposition between reduced vowels and full vowels in precisely the high portion of the vowel inventory. It is tempting to assume that this opposition was brought into Proto-Permian and later Proto-Mari due to the higher prestige of the Old Chuvash speakers. Contradicting this assumption, however, is the fact that according to Sammallahti, the Permian languages formed this opposition already in the Pre-Permian era, but the Volga Bulgarian impact on Proto-Permian began only around the time of its dissolution. And it would be difficult to explain on this basis of this assumption, why the reconstructed Proto-Komi system is closer to the reconstructed Proto-Permian vowel system with its opposition of full and reduced vowels than the Proto-Udmurt system; it was after all Proto-Udmurt which remained under Volga Bulgarian influence while Proto-Komi moved away from it.
The following examples drawn from Sammallahti (1988: 530–531), which illustrate his reconstruction from Proto-Finno-Permian into first Proto-Permian and then Proto-Komi and Proto-Udmurt, show the phonological development of the lexicon:
Finno-Permian *ńini ‘bast’ > Proto-Permian *ńĭn > Proto-Komi *ńĭn (> Komi ńin, Komi-Yazva ńin), Proto-Udmurt *ńin (> Udmurt ńin) (= Finnish niini)
Finno-Permian *nimi ‘name’ > Proto-Permian *ńĭm > Proto-Komi *ńĭm (> Komi ńim, Komi-Yazva ńim), Proto-Udmurt *ńim (> Udmurt ńim) (= Finnish nimi)
Finno-Permian *küsä ‘thick, fat’ > Proto-Permian *kĭ̮z > Proto-Komi *kĭ̮z (> Komi ki̮z, Komi-Yazva kɵz), Proto-Udmurt *ki̮z (> Udmurt ki̮z) (= Saami gâssâ)
Finno-Permian *kūśi ‘20’ > Proto-Permian *kĭ̮ź > Proto-Komi *kĭ̮ź (> Komi ki̮ź), Proto-Udmurt *ki̮ź (> Udmurt ki̮ź, SW dialectal ku̇ź) (cognates in the Ugric languages)
Finno-Permian *tuli ‘fire’ > Proto-Permian *tĭ̮l > Proto-Komi *tĭ̮l (> Komi ti̮l), Proto-Udmurt *ti̮l (> Udmurt ti̮l) (= Finnish tuli)
Finno-Permian *mēli ‘mind’ > Proto-Permian *mĭ̮l > Proto-Komi *mĭ̮l (> Komi mi̮l, Komi-Yazva mɵl), Proto-Udmurt *mi̮l (> Udmurt mi̮l) (= Finnish mieli)
Finno-Permian *pesä ‘nest’ > Proto-Permian *poz > Proto-Komi *poz (> Komi poz, Komi-Yazva poz), Proto-Udmurt *puz (> Udmurt puz ‘egg’) (= Finnish pesä); Finno-Permian *keski ‘nest’ > Proto-Permian *küsk > Proto-Komi *kusk (> Komi kos(k‑), Komi-Yazva kusk), Proto-Udmurt *küs (> Udmurt kus(k‑), SW dialectal ku̇s(k‑)) (= Finnish keski)
Finno-Permian *kōsi ‘spruce, fir’ > Proto-Permian *ki̮z > Proto-Komi *ki̮z (> Komi koz, Komi-Permyak ke̮z), Proto-Udmurt *ki̮z (> Udmurt ki̮z, SW dialectal ku̇z) (= Finnish kuusi)
Finno-Permian *okse‑ (Sammallahti *oksi‑) ‘vomit’ > Proto-Permian *u̇sk‑ > Proto-Komi *i̮s‑ (> Komi vos‑, Udora ve̮s‑), Proto-Udmurt *e̮sk‑ (>Udmurt e̮ski̮‑, SW dialectal ösi̮‑) (= Finnish okse‑nta‑)
Finno-Permian *äjä [?] ‘old man’ > Proto-Permian *aji̮ > Proto-Komi *aj (> Komi aj, Komi-Yazva aj), Proto-Udmurt *aji̮ (> Udmurt aj(i̮)) (= Finnish äijä, Saami agˈgja) (Sammllahti does not propose this etymology); Finno-Permian *tälvä ‘winter’ > Proto-Permian *tȯl > Proto-Komi *te̮l (> Komi te̮l), Proto-Udmurt *tol (> Udmurt tol) (= Finnish tälvi, Saami dalˈve)
Finno-Permian *kaẟ́a‑ ‘remain’ > Proto-Permian *kuĺi̮‑ > Proto-Komi *kuĺ‑ (> Komi koĺ‑, Komi-Yazva kuĺ‑), Proto-Udmurt *kuĺi̮‑ (>Udmurt ki̮ĺi̮‑, kiĺi̮‑) (= Finnish kad‑ota ‘disappear’, Saami guođˈđe‑)
Sammllahti also presents examples of how Finno-Permian mid vowels could become raised in Proto-Permian and then reduced:
Finno-Permian *śola ‘salt’ > Proto-Permian *śŭl > Proto-Komi *śŭl (> Komi śŭl), Proto-Udmurt *śul (>Udmurt śul) (= Finnish suoli)
Finno-Permian *me̮ksa ‘liver’ > Proto-Permian *mŭsk > Proto-Komi *mŭsk (> Komi mŭs(k‑), Komi-Permyak mŭs‑), Proto-Udmurt *mus (> Udmurt mus) (= Finnish maksa)
The same applies even to long mid vowels, as illustrated by an example given above: Finno-Permian *mēli ‘mind’ > Proto-Permian *mĭ̮l > Proto-Komi *mĭ̮l, Proto-Udmurt *mi̮l.
The Permian languages have lost endings, but opinions differ on whether Proto-Permian had already lost the second syllable of roots. In Udmurt there is an archaic layer of the lexicon where nominal roots consist of two syllables and are vowel-final, but in Komi the same word is consonant-final. (Verb roots show a corresponding tendency: in Udmurt verbs are generally vowel stems, while Komi verbs have both vowel and consonant stems, see pp. 180–181.) If in Udmurt a vowel in a noun stem cannot be explained as a derivational element, i.e. the root is truly vowel-final, the vowel is always a high vowel. In Komi there is a word interpreted in the same way. According to Rédei, śoŕńí ‘speech’ may have preserved the original second-syllable vowel but raised it. The antiquity of the second-syllable vowel in Udmurt is attested by the fact that no reason can be found for why e.g. li̮mi̮ ‘snow’ is in all the dialects in Wichmann’s materials vowel-final. There is no phonotactic reason for the late appearance of this vowel, for word-final ‑m is completely possible, cf. kam ‘river, stream, the Kama River’. On the other hand, it is not easy to understand the preservation of the second-syllable vowel in li̮mi̮. It was originally, in Proto-Uralic and Proto-Finno-Ugrian, a high vowel (PFU *lumi < PU *lomi). Itkonen, in connection with other matters (e.g. Mari and Morvin), claimed that second-syllable originally high vowels (or mid vowels according to Itkonen’s theory) had generally been reduced and lost before the low vowels. He believed that Udmurt nominative forms ending in a second-syllable vowel are secondary; the linking vowel in all of the oblique forms was added to the nominative. Kel’makov (1990: 113–116) noted that there are quite a lot of near-homonyms which can be distinguished only because one word is consonant-final and the other has a second-syllable vowel. Thus the final vowel helps to avoid homonymy. He gives 29 such word pairs. According to Molnár (1974: 61ff.), in these cases Udmurt has retained the second-syllable vowel and always raised it to a high vowel (Rédei 1968a: 41ff. had come to the same conclusion). The second-syllable vowel would have thus lost its distinguishing feature of height (low/high) and this would hardly have any relevance (there are no word pairs of the type *kerä/*keri). The leveling of stem vowels would have even been motivated in Proto-Permian. In some cases the second-syllable vowel took on a morphological role, the function of a vocalic suffix (cf. in the declension of Proto-Permian personal pronouns 1 sg. gen. *mVnam ‘of me’ versus 1 sg. dat. *mVnim ‘to me’).
Not all cases of second-syllable non-high vowels can be explained as vowel suffixes. Loanwords can show such vowels in roots, e.g. Udmurt kuĺto, Komi koĺta ‘sheaf’ < Chuvash, Komi paĺto ‘overcoat’.
The main tendency of Proto-Permian second-syllable vowels, however, is that final vowels are lost from bisyllabic word forms. If modern Permian languages have bisyllabic vowel-final forms, a historical linguist’s first question would be, what consonant has been lost from the end of this form? The loss of the vowel has also affected the boundary between the first and second syllable; phonotactically final consonant clusters were under pressure to be simplified. This has given rise to some allomorphic variations (which will be treated later under morphology).
If there was an opposition between full and reduced vowels in first syllables in Sammallahti’s reconstruction, it is natural to assume that the weakening and loss of second-syllable vowels happened along the lines of the reduced vowels. The opinion of the Hungarian scholars has also been shown: the weakening of second syllables would have started with the raising of second-syllable vowels. The weakening would have continued with the reduction of high vowels and finally their loss. Supporters of Sammallahti’s theory of a full/reduced opposition can note that the area in which first-syllable reduced vowels existed was in Proto-Permian precisely the high vowels.
The vowel paradigm of suffixes is more restricted than initial syllables. In Udmurt suffixes mostly contain the central vowel i̮ or the front vowel e. (In the Southern dialects of Udmurt, instead of a high central vowel i̮ one finds the high front vowel i.) Suffixes can also have the rounded vowel o, in some suffixes the low vowel a is possible and in a few suffixes across the entire Udmurt territory one finds the high front vowel i (e.g. the prolative case ending ‑ti). In Komi the vowels that make up suffixes are particularly the central vowels i̮ and e̮ – some of the dialects use instead front i and e – but also a is common and i is possible in suffixes.
Lytkin (1964: 239) reconstructed only three vowels for Proto-Permian non-initial syllables: *i, *a and *ɛ.
The Диалектологический атлас удмуртского языка edited by R. I. Nasibullin et al. (Iževsk: R&C Dynamics, 2009) has a series of maps showing the distributions of the Udmurt names for various things across the area where the language is spoken. For the most items, there are only a few variants, and in the case of borrowing, Russian loans are prevalent in the north of the Udmurt Republic while Tatar loans are prevalent in the south.
The word for ‘ladybug’ (Russian божья коровка) is a different story. The atlas lists 124 variants.
Some of these are very colourful: ӵужанай ‘maternal grandmother’, вӧйын нянь сиись ‘bread-and-butter eater’. A large number are formed with зор ‘rain’ (< Volga Bulgarian, cf. Chuvash ҫур ‘snow’). Nasibullin examines these names more closely in his article ‘“Божья коровка” в удмуртских говорах’ in the journal Иднакар (issue 2007-2).
Amusingly, after the myriad names for ‘ladybug’, the atlas documents only one name (with varying vocalism) for that most common pest on Earth, the cockroach: торокан/ таракан/тӓрӓкӓн (cf. Russian таракан).
(If this kind of variation fascinates you, in North America, the various names for the family Armadillidiidae, which I grew up calling a roly poly, have also been mapped.)
One of the things that always made Albanian seem so mysterious to me in the 1990s and early millennium was the dearth of quality learning materials, a strange state of affairs considering that Albanian is the official language of a decent-sized European country. For a long time, the only introduction easy to purchase was Isa Zymberi’s entry in Routledge’s Colloquial series. However, its presentation of this rather daunting language was opaque, and it was based entirely on the dialect of Kosovo (presumably because it was the only place learners of Albanian could freely travel during the Communist era).
Happily, Routledge remedied this last year by publishing a new version of Colloquial Albanian by Linda Mëniku and Héctor Campos. This is based on the standard language established in Albania proper after the war, treating the Gheg and Tosk dialects only in the last chapter. From my initial impressions after buying a copy in a Helsinki bookshop and flipping through it, this new version lays out more clearly the complex (often irregular) morphology of Albanian. There is no English-Albanian glossary and the amount of vocabulary presented is fairly small, but it seems a fine start and I look forward to working through it before a trip to the Western Balkans this summer.
Proposals of macrofamilies are interesting, especially when based on data only recently elicited from hitherto-unstudied languages. I’ve come across a paper by Juliette Blevins titled “A Long Lost Sister of Proto-Austronesian?” published in Oceanic Linguistics vol. 46 no. 1 (June 2007) that links two Andaman languages to Austronesian. Its abstract reads:
This paper applies the comparative method to two related languages of the southen Andaman Islands, Jarawa and Onge, leading to the reconstruction of a proto-language termed “Proto-Ongan” (PON). The same method is used to argue that Proto-Ongan may be related to Proto-Austronesian (PAN). Lexical and grammatical evidence suggests that Proto-Ongan and Proto-Austronesian are sisters, daughters of a Proto-Austronesian-Ongan (PAO). The implications of this discovery are wide-ranging, from potential solutions to problems in PAN grammar, to new hypotheses regarding ancient speaker migrations. While few of these implications are examined here, an extended Austronesian phylogeny is proposed in the hope that it will seed new avenues of research, and highlight the potential importance of Andamanese studies in understanding Austronesian prehistory.
Would any scholar of Austronesian like to chime in about how Blevins’s proposal has been received in the community?
Textbooks of Finno-Ugrian languages written for foreign learners really like to give children’s poetry as translation exercises. Thus Марийский язык для всех presents the following from one Pet Pershut:
Тыгыде кутко —
Йошкар кутко —
Сар кутко —
Кеҥеж кечын сад мучко
Каеныт корно мучко,
Пурак веле тӱргалтын,
Изи йыҥгыр мӱгыралтын.
Орава да тарантас ден,
Шым гитар ден,
Шым шӱвыр ден,
Вич тӱмыр ден,
Рӱж миеныт йыраҥыш.
The ant wedding
They made their way
though the garden on a summer day,
carrying only crumbs,
singing a little song.
With carts and wagons,
with seven guitars,
with seven bagpipes,
with five drums,
they sang and danced,
and made merry,
They went on, they went up,
They bent down grain stalks,
They went to the wedding,
with a buzz they headed into the flower-bed.
The third chapter of the Udmurt textbook Марым, леся… gives a series of several poems by Alla Kuznetsova exemplifying the numerals just introduced. Here’s the one for ‘7’:
Сизьым туж тодмо мыным,
Сизьым нунал арняын:
Вордӥськон бере пуксён,
The seven days of the week:
Monday then Tuesday,
I don’t much care for this. Adult learners should not be treated like children. Sure, it may be a few chapters before a student is ready for it, but it would be more dignified to bring in selections from folk songs or simple selections from novels.
On my recent trip to Nepal I came across two inscriptions of linguistic interest.
The first is an unusual inscription in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square. This was placed here by King Pratap Malla in the 17th century. The king was a linguaphile and this poem to the goddess Kali includes words from 15 scripts and languages. According to an article in the Nepali newspaper República these are Persian, Arabic, Maithili, Kiranti, Newari, Kayathinagar (the script then used in western Nepal), Devanagri, Gaudiya, Kashmiri, Sanskrit, two different Tibetan scripts, English and French.
You can clearly make out French l’hiver ‘winter’ and automne ‘autumn’ as well as English winter.
Sadly, a significant part of this inscription has already been effaced. Indeed, the same is happening to most of the inscriptions in Durbar Square, and in spite of its UNESCO World Heritage Site status nothing is being done to protect them.
The second interesting inscription is on the pillar that the Emperor Ashoka set up in the 3rd century BC in Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha. This Prakrit-language proclamation releasing Lumbini from tax obligations is written in the Brahmi script. The plaque standing in front of the pillar has a Latin transliteration and translations into English and Nepali.
Here I present a translation of pp. 18–23 of the Фонетика volume of the Сравительно-историческая грамматика тюркских языков ed. E. R. Tenišev (Moscow: Nauka, 1984). This is a work which I appreciate more and more as time goes by, and I hope to bring further portions of it into English in future.
Close ẹ in the Common Turkic vowel system
This problem arises in the reconstruction of Proto-Turkic vocalism, and its solution depends on solving the question of how many cardinal vowels there were in Proto-Turkic: 8 or 9. Theoretically the following hypotheses are possible:
the Proto-Turkic system had ä (wide) and ẹ (narrow);
there was a qualitative and quantitative opposition of these vowels, i.e. ä versus ẹː (wide short versus narrow long);
there was ä (short) and äː (long): this variation of the reconstruction is actually very similar to the second if one takes into account that phonetically a long vowel is usually more close than the corresponding short one;
there were äː and ẹ (wide long and narrow short);
there were ä, äː, ẹ and ẹː;
at an early stage Proto-Turkic had ä̂, äː, ä and ệ, ẹː, ẹ, but in Common Turkic (with the exception of Chuvash) ä̂ and ệ fell together into ä̂, while ä and ẹ fell together into ä (cf. variant 5).
All of these variants have been discussed in specialist literature.
First of all, one must observe that in the modern Turkic languages there are not two (open and close) but several phonetic variants of phonemes which can be presented in transcription as æ, ä, ɛ, e. Furthermore, in each specific system or type of system they have their own particular origin and status.
Thus in languages of the Kipchak type (Kazakh, Karakalpak and Nogay), where a comparatively regular raising of mid vowels occurred, the variant e was established, which could have originated in ɛ or ẹ. In Tatar and Bashkir, this e (< ä, ẹ) shifted to i, but in the affixal subsystem it is represented by ä (a front variant of a). Tatar and Bashkir also developed a secondary ä from a in the environment of dorsal j, z, ẟ, ž, š, ǯ, č, ž and both ä fell together:
|ä/ä in suffixes||} ä|
|ä (vowel harmony variant of a)|
In Turkish (taking its dialects into account) there resulted ɛ and e and even ä, e, ẹ, though in the literary language ɛ and e did not develop into independent phonemes.
In Turkmen a new opposition between ɛ and äː arose, whereas earlier eː, apparently through a stage ei, gave iː. The stage e was preserved in the Khorezm dialects of Uzbek: eːr ‘early’ (~ Turkmen iːr), and in Turkmen dialects (eːr ‘early’, eːl ‘country’, beːl ‘small of the back’, geːč ‘late’).
The opposition of long and short e (ɛ vs. eː) can be found in Azeri, but now it is not quantitative (ä vs. eː) but qualitative (äl ‘hand’ vs. el ‘country’; Azeri er ‘early’, bel ‘small of the back’, geǯ ‘late’ ~ Turkmen iːr ‘country’, biːl ‘small of the back’, giːč ‘late’).
Apart from this, in Azeri (and Turkmen) a shift ä > e took place in the environment of j, attested already in ancient languages, and also in rare instances of assimilation before a following i (ä > e): Azeri jet‑ ‘arrive, reach’, jer ‘earth’, cf. Old Turkic jetirü ‘until’ and jer ‘earth’ in the Brahmi texts, Azeri ešik ‘door’, Turkmen iːšik ‘door’, but Azeri dämir ‘iron’ (Turkish demir), gämi ‘boat’, where there is no influence from i.
In Yakut the quantitative and qualitative opposition between ɛ and eː changed into an opposition between ɛ and i͜e, i.e. between a relatively short vowel and a diphthong: än ‘you’ versus i͜en ‘width’. Furthermore, there is also a dialectal variation i ~ e (is‑ ~ es‑ ‘wade’, ilt‑ ~ elt‑ ‘lead’, iliː ~ eliː ‘hand’) and ä, e > i under the influence of j (> ǯ > č > s): sir‑ ‘reject’, sit‑ ‘reach, attain’, and also i of a following syllable: tirit‑ ‘sweat’ (< tär ‘sweat’), tiriː ‘leather, hide, skin’ (< *täriɣ), diriŋ ‘deep’ (< *däriŋ), timir ‘iron’ (< *tämir).
In Chuvash ɛ is of recent origin. It is a substitution for Tatar ä in loanwords and the front variant of the wide vowel in suffixes.
In Chuvash a and i correspond to the Common Turkic phoneme e (ɛ and ẹ). Thus since a can be found instead of the mid variant of the vowel, i.e. ɛ > ä > a, and i is usually found instead of high ẹ (ẹː) or a diphthong, one could imagine that Chuvash reflects more accurately the ancient qualitative opposition between ä (äː) and e (ëː ?). For every case of a in Chuvash, at an earlier stage of Common Turkic there must have been ä (or äː), and wherever Chuvash has i earlier Common Turkic had e (eː).
In the remaining Turkic languages one must consider the qualitative opposition between ä and e to be lost and explain the various reflexes of these vowels as traces of a quantitative opposition, i.e.:
|Azeri ä < ä, e; e in many cases < äː, eː|
|Turkmen e < ä, e; iː < äː, eː|
|Yakut ä < ä, e; i͜e < äː, eː, etc.|
Analysing Chuvash examples, we find that Chuvash a reflects ä from Common Turkic eː and ä, and also from ä in some loanwords.
Turkmen giːč ‘late’ (gẹːč), Turkish geč, Azeri g’eǯ, Yakut ki͜ehä ~ Chuvash kas’; Turkmen ber‑ ‘give’, Turkish dial. beːr‑, Yakut bi͜er‑ ~ Chuvash par‑; Turkmen iŋ ‘width’, Yakut i͜en, Azeri en ~ Chuvash an; Turkmen iːn‑ ‘go down’, Azeri en‑ ~ Chuvash an‑;
Turkmen ek‑ ‘sow’, Azeri äk‑ ~ Chuvash ak‑ (cf. Hungarian eke ‘plow’ < Bulgarian); Turkmen θeθ ‘voice’, Azeri säs ~ Chuvash sas̬ə;
Turkish eš‑ ‘trot’ ~ Chuvash aš‑ (i.e. the shift e‑ > ä‑ > a‑ took place even in relatively late loans).
The reflex i in single-syllable roots in Chuvash is found instead of Common Turkic e, but also e < ä, including early and late loans:
Turkmen eẟ‑, Azeri äz‑, Tatar iz‑ ~ Chuvash ir‑ ‘crush’; Azeri jet‑ ‘arrive’, Turkmen jet‑, Tuvan čeʰt‑, Tatar ǯ́it‑, Bashkir jët‑ ~ Chuvash s’it‑; Azeri g’äl‑ ‘come’, Turkmen gel‑, Tuvan, Yakut kel‑, Tatar kil‑ ~ Chuvash kil‑;
Azeri sez‑ ‘feel’, Tatar siz‑, Bashkir hiẟ‑ ~ sis (< Tat.); Turkmen em ‘medicine’, Tat., Bashkir, Khakas im ~ Chuvash im (< Tat.); Kyrgyz, Altay, Tuvan er ‘use’, Bashkir ir (Tat. irlə̈) ~ Chuvash ir ‘use, gain’ (< Tat.).
One finds instances where Common Turkic e < ä (next to j) gives ə̈ in Chuvash (as in Bashkir): Turkmen, Turkish, Azeri jer ‘earth’, Kyrgyz ǯer, Tuvan čer, Tat. ǯ́ir, Yakut sir, Bashkir jə̈r ~ s’ə̈r ‘earth’; Turkish jen‑, Turkmen jeŋ‑, Kyrgyz ǯeŋ‑, Tat. ǯ́iŋ‑, Khakas čiŋ‑, Bashkir jə̈ŋ‑ ‘defeat’ ~ s’ə̈n‑.
In a number of Chuvash words the vowel i corresponds to Common Turkic ẹ (~ Turkmen iː, Yakut i͜e): Turkmen bäːš ‘5’, Yakut bi͜es, Turkish, Azeri beš, Tat., Bashkir biš ~ Chuvash pilə̈k; Turkmen, Yakut biːl ‘small of the back’, Azeri, Kyrgyz bel, Tat. bil, Khakas pil ~ Chuvash pilə̈k; Turkmen ir ‘early’, Azeri er ~ Chuvash ir.
According to Doerfer, the last example illustrates the assumption that Chuvash i goes back to Common Turkic e, as in Mari we find the word er ‘morning, early’ which was borrowed from Chuvash. Mari e represents an earlier stage of development (in Hill Mari e > i).
Turkic borrowings in Mari like el ‘country’ (~ ? Chuvash jal), en ‘most’, ertäš ‘go past’, pelčän ‘sow thistle (genus Sonchus)’, teŋə̈z ‘sea’, terə̈s ‘manure, fertilizer’, terke ‘plate’, keremet ‘evil spirit’, seŋäš ‘defeat’, s’erə̈p ‘heavy’ show that the raising of e > i involved words not from Ancient Chuvash but rather representing a general Turkic stock in the Middle Volga that goes back to a single source.
In iranianized Uzbek dialects we find e (narrow) and æ (a very wide variant of the vowel e).
In Uyghur, which has the so-called i-umlaut, we find wide ä and e (e and ë) secondary in origin, originating from ä and aː under the influence of a following i.
Close and open variants of e (ẹ and ɛ) are apparently found in the language of the Yenesei runic inscriptions, as e is depicted by a special grapheme. A distinction was made between these two variants also in the texts in the Brahmi script. Worth noting are the Brahmi-Azeri parallels ket‑ ‘leave, go away’ ~ g’et‑ (Turkmen gider ‘he goes out’), keŋ ‘wide’ ~ g’en (Turkmen giːŋ), ber‑ ‘give’ ~ ver‑ (Yakut bi͜er‑), beš ‘5’ ~ beš (Yakut bi͜es), el ‘tribe’ ~ el (Turkmen iːl), which confirm that in a portion of words Azeri e reflects the quantity of the Proto-Turkic vowel.
E (as a variant of ä) before and after j is found in Turkish dialects, Azeri, the Brahmi texts, Yakut, etc. Cf. e.g. Brahmi jel ‘wind’ ~ Azeri jel; Brahmi jer ‘earth’ ~ Azeri jer ~ Yakut sir; Azeri jet‑ ‘arrive’ ~ Yakut sit‑; Azeri jerik ‘cravings of a pregnant woman’ ~ Yakut sir‑ ‘reject’, etc.
In Yakut this (short) ẹ narrowed to i (sir, sit‑).
Because combinatory and positional variation of the type ä ~ ɛ ~ e and e ~ i, and thus ä ~ ɛ ~ ẹ ~ i is typical of many modern-day Turkic languages and dialects, one can assume it also for earlier stages of their development. Nonetheless one cannot neglect the rich attestations of dialect mixing, reflected in many (if not all) Turkic vowel systems, cf. e.g. the systems of Chuvash, Khakas and West Siberian Tatar dialects. Both of these factors have led (including in the literary standards) to irregular correspondences: Turkmen lit. bäːš ‘5’, dial. beš, Azeri beš (< beːš) ~ Chuvash pilə̈k; Turkmen äːr ‘man’, Azeri är, Tat., Bashkir, Khakas ir ~ Chuvash ar (on the basis of the Chuvash and Azeri forms one can reconstruct *är); Turkmen mäːẟ ‘gland’, Turkish, Kyrgyz, Kumyk bez ~ Chuvash par (Azeri väz) (on the basis of the Chuvash form one can reconstruct *bär); Turkmen gäːt‑ ‘break off, away’, Turkish get‑ (gedik), Kyrgyz ket‑, Tat. kit‑ ~ Chuvash kat‑ (on the basis of the Turkish and Chuvash forms one can reconstruct *kaːt‑). Thus Turkmen äː corresponds to Common Turkic ä and ẹ̈ː.
Also noteworthy are correspondences between Chuvash and Common Turkic: Chuvash alək ‘gate, door’ (< *äːlik), cf. Turkish, Azeri ešik (where ä > e under the influence of a following i?), Tat., Bashkir išə̈k, Khakas dial. izə̈k, Khakas ə̈zə̈k; but Turkmen iːšik (< *eːšik); Chuvash at‑ ‘do’ (< *ät‑) (cf. Turkmen eder ‘he does’), where d < t after an initial long vowel), but Azeri et‑ points to a protoform *eːt‑; Chuvash ilt‑ ‘hear’ (< *elit‑), Turkmen, Azeri ešit‑, Turkish išit‑ (e > i under the influence of i), Tat., Bashkir išə̈t‑, Yakut ihit‑; Chuvash i, Azeri e point to Common Turkic *e.
Thus an ancient qualitative opposition of ä and e is reflected in the Chuvash system, where we have a < ä and i < e. Only traces remain of a quantitative opposition ẹː > i, cf. pilə̈k ‘5’. Significantly more frequently long eː and short ä are reflected as a: kas’ ‘evening’ (< *käːč < *kẹːč); ak‑ ‘sow’ (< äk‑).
The whole Common Turkic map is tainted with subsequent dialect mixing and positional-combinatorial variation of the vowels ä, e, i.
For showing the ancient quantitative opposition of e sounds, the Turkmen and Yakut data are the most reliable: in Turkmen iː < ẹː, as a rule, corresponds to the Yakut diphthong i͜e, for example: Turkmen giːč ‘late’ ~ Yakut ki͜ehä ‘evening’, giːŋ ‘wide’ ~ ki͜eŋ (but käŋä‑ ‘widen’), iːn ‘width’ ~ i͜en (but ? äŋäj‑ ‘spread out’), iːt ‘lead’ ~ si͜et‑ ‘take by the hand, by a leash or rope’ (but sätiː ~ si͜etiː ‘leading a blind person’).
The regular nature of these correspondences is undermined by such examples as Turkmen biːl ‘small of the back’ ~ Yakut biːl (and not i͜e), bäːš (and not biːš) ‘5’ ~ bi͜es (but bähis ‘fifth’).
The alternation of i͜e ~ iː possibly arose within Yakut, cf. also Yakut iːt ‘load a rifle’ ~ ? Turkmen et‑ ‘do’ (< *eːt‑, indicated also by the d in eder ‘he does’); Yakut tiːl ‘calf or colt nursing from an unrelated female’ ~ Kyrgyz tel.
As far as the correspondence bäːš ~ Yakut bi͜es is concerned, it is well known that numerals are often characterized by phonetic peculiarities due to their function in speech, such as emphatic gemination of consonants. It is also well known that in Turkmen dialects one also encounters the phonetic variants beːš, beš. Chuvash pilə̈k and Volga Bulgarian *bielim may also attest to the length and close character of ẹ in beːl ~ beš.
Thus the materials we have examined allow us to speak with a high level of probability of the existence in Proto-Turkic of short ä and long ẹː and of the combinatorial variation of ä (ɛ, e) in different phonetic environments at a late stage of the protolanguage and at various points in the history of the modern Turkic languages all the way to the present day.
 See e.g. Scherbak 1970, 28–33, which contains a detailed analysis of almost every proposed hypothesis, and Doerfer 1971, 240–247.
 If the shift ɛ > e > i had occurred in suffixes, then the variations of some affixes, e.g. ‑di and ‑də̈, could merge, as i in open final syllables tends to be lowered. Indeed, in the Kasimov dialect ä > i even in affixes: bir8in ‘he gave’, bə̈zdi ‘on us’.
 Azeri ešik possibly goes back to *eːšik, and not *äšik, though the latter reconstruction is suggested by Chuvash alək ‘door’.
 As pointed out by D’jakovskij (1971, 98–99), the second part of the i͜e diphthong is more close than short ɛ.
 The shift ä > a occurred after the shift of Common Turkic a > ao > o. Note that in the period of Permian-Bulgarian contacts (8th–9th centuries) Chuvash still retained ä in opposition with e: ban, bam ‘cheek’, but s’i̮l ‘storm’.
 Cf. Turkmen äːr ‘man’, Azeri är ~ Chuvash ar, where the long vowel in the Turkmen word points to äː in the protolanguage, see e.g. the reconstructions of Poppe (eːr) and Doerfer (ä̂r or är).
When I first became acquainted with Persian some years ago, two grammatical features seemed unusual to me from an Indo-European perspective. One was the ezafe construction, which I eventually learned was the product of contact with Caucasian languages. But the other was the formation of the present tense with a prefix me‑ (indicative) or be‑ (subjunctive) followed by the verb stem and personal endings. In his chapter ‘Dialectology and Topics’ in Routledge’s The Iranian Languages pp. 24–25, Gernot Windfuhr offers a fine summary of the changes that produced the modern Persian system of tenses, which not only clarifies the origin of me‑ and be‑, but shows that Persian has returned to the same five-member tense/aspect system that Iranian (like Greek) started off with.
The history of the parameters and axes of the verb systems from Old Iranian to Modern Iranian shows a cycle from a five-member quincunx to varying Middle Iranian systems back to a quincunx. The development is shown here with the example of Persian.
The inherited fundamental and primary verbal parameter of the Early Old Iranian system is triple aspect which intersects with the binary tense parameter of present and past (marked by the augment a‑). It is centered on the perfective aorist:
Early Old Iranian Present Past Imperfective PR a-PR “Present system” Perfective AOR “Aorist system” Resultive-stative PF (a-PF) “Perfect system”
In time, this triple aspect system was reduced to forms of the “present” system, i.e. imperfect present and imperfective past, leaving only a few forms of the aorist and the perfect. With their loss, the highly complex inherited system was reduced to a single imperfective stem, distinguishing present vs. augmented imperfect: PR vs. a-PR.
Concomitantly, however, the vacated aorist and perfect ranges of the system were partially filled by the innovation of a new perfective system based on the adjectival completive participle in -tá plus the present and past copula, with both intransitive and transitive verbs.
In Middle Persian, the resulting four-member system of two imperfective and two perfective forms was extended by replacing the copula with the stative verb ēst‑ ‘to stand’. The outcome was a six-member system with a triple aspect axis and a binary tense axis:
Middle Persian Present Past Imperfective raw‑ (a-raw‑) present imperfect (later lost) Perfective raft COP raft būd COP preterit past preterit Resultive-stative raft ēst‑ raft ēstād COP perfect pluperfect
In addition, the adverb hamē lit. ‘forever’ expressed ongoing and progressive action as well as continuing state, while its pendant bē (homophonous with the adverb bē ‘out, away’) expressed the singularity of an event in present and past and assumed inchoative or future connotation with the present stem.
In Early New Persian, (ha)mē‑ and bē‑ were continued, but the periphrastic resultative ēst‑ forms were replaced by extended forms based on the verbal adjective in -tag (< *-taka). bi and mē could still occur with these verb forms, and neither was obligatory. The core system in terms of frequency was the following:
Early New Persian Present Past Imperfective mē-raw‑ mē-raft‑ Perfective bi-raw‑ bi-raft‑ inchoat.-fut. singularity Unmarked raw‑ raft‑ gen. present gen. past Resultive-stative raft-a COP raft-a bud‑
Subsequently the system was restructured by the coalescence of the unmarked forms with the perfective forms by the fifteenth century.
- In the present, the perfective bi-form assumed distinct subjunctive function, alternating with the unmarked general present form, now opposed to the indicative present-future mē-form.
- In the past, the general unmarked form subsumed the function of the bi-form to express both general and perfective events, now opposed to the imperfective mē-past form. It thereby assumed the central role of an aorist in the resulting five-member system.
The core of the system became thus as follows, and has not changed since:
Pre-Modern, Indicative Present Past Imperfective mē-rav‑ mē-raft‑ Perfective raft‑ Resultive-stative raft-a COP raft-a bud‑
The non-indicative sub-system developed in parallel to the indicative core, using the imperfect and past-perfect forms for irreal function, and using the present subjunctive of ‘to be’ for the perfect subjective:
Pre-Modern, Non-Indicative Present Past Imperfective bi-rav‑ mē-raft‑ Perfective raft‑ Resultive-stative raft-a bāš raft-a bud‑
The Mari news site MariUver has reposted an interesting article originally published at PolitRUS about a recent political conference in Russia, which I’ve translated from Russian below. There’s an element of conspiracy ravings here; the “expert in Islamic studies” Suleymanov has drawn criticism for his claims of Tatar extremism. The last paragraph reveals something of opinions held within Russia on the Mari, Mordvin and Udmurt emigrants who have been of such help to Finno-Ugrists at European universities.
The West is Evaluating the Possibility of Supporting Islamic Separatists in the Volga Region
The issue of drawing NATO countries’ attention to outbreaks of national separatism and Islamic terrorism in the Volga Region was one of the main themes of the Sixth All-Russian Conference of Applied Studies “Наука молодых” (Study of Youth) which was held on December 18 in Arzamas (Nizhny Novgorod oblast). The conference was organized by the A. P. Gajdar Arzamas State Pedagogical Institute and drew participation from scholars and experts from neighbouring oblasts and republics. Attendees were especially interested in talks by researchers from Tatarstan, where over the last year the situation of religious extremism and national separatism has been sharpened.
As Rais Suleymanov, the director of the Volga Centre for Regional and Ethnoreligious Research РИСИ explained, starting with the “Nurlat episode” (a special forces operation to liquidate a group of armed militants in the Nurlat region of Tatarstan on November 25, 2010), as of December 2012 Tatarstan has been visited by journalists and political analysts from France, the United States, Great Britain, Holland, Poland and other countries. There have even been visitors from Australia and Brazil.
In the opinion of Suleymanov, such visits are not coincidental:
Arriving under the pretext of being reporters, scholars and analysts, our Western guests often come not because of an interest in journalism or research, but in order to gather information about how serious the problem of the Volga Region becoming a hotspot is.
At the same time, in the words of this specialist in Islamic studies, the Western experts that he has met with personally use a special “methodology of communication”.
Besides, the very existence of greater interest in this subject and the overwhelming desire to meet with separatists and fundamentalists speaks to the fact that the West is evaluating the possibility of financing and providing informational support to the Islamist underground and nationalists in Tatarstan, Suleymanov stated. He added that in this context one should look to the activities of journalists from the Qatar television network Al Jazeera, which has a branch in Kazan.
In addition to Suleymanov’s talk, his colleague Vasily Ivanov noted that the international terrorist organization Muslim Brotherhood through its agents in Russia has also shown an interest in Finno-Ugrian nationalist movements.
Ivanov gave his own talk titled “Finno-Ugrian separatism in the Volga Region: its ideology, the extent of its spread and foreign influences”. Analysing outbreaks of Finno-Ugrian separatism in Russia at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries, the researcher pointed to the support that Mari, Mordvin and Udmurt nationalists receive today from Finland, Hungary and Estonia.
The situation is becoming more serious because anti-Russian propaganda is published on the internet by people studying in institutes of higher education in those countries — undergraduates, graduate students and PhD candidates from the Volga republics at universities in the European Union, Ivanov underlined.
So far I have been managing my linguistics blog, my travel blog and a grabbag of other subjects as separate WordPress platforms. In the coming days, I intend on merging these into a single blog for ease of maintenance. Those interested in only the linguistics posts will be able to subscribe to them separately from the rest of the content, but you will have to update your RSS subscription. Stay tuned at ChristopherCulver.com for more.
EDIT: The merge is complete. Please update your addresses. I have set up a redirection so that subscriptions to content from my linguistics blog will continue to work, but eventually it is better to subscribe to the new feed address for language posts (RSS, Atom) or for all content at ChristopherCulver.com (RSS, Atom).