Thursday, June 15, 2017

... on PIE

... on Tower of Babel - a Classic (quora) · ... on PIE

Why does reconstructed Proto-Indo-European seem so cumbersome to pronounce?

C on Q
It seems as if there are a lot of unusual phonemes and stranger and more consonant clusters than most modern IE languages have. Also, what do those subscript numbers mean?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
I speak two langs, Latin and Germanic. In a few dialects.
Answered just now
H generally comes with subscript 1,2 or 3.

H1 is the H which becomes (a Continental) E and was probably (an English / German) H.

H2 becomes A and was presumably Ach-Laut.

H3 becomes O and also voices some consonants beside it, was probably a voiced counterpart of Ach-Laut a little further back perhaps and with lip rounding.

Then there are bh, dh, gh, gh(w). Basically taken over from Sanskrit bh, dh, jh, gh.

Now, the unusual part is this : bh, dh, gh, gh(w) exist, which is rare outside India (Sanskrit + some Dravidic languages + some Indic languages later than Sanskrit) AND the three H sounds can form the core of a syllable, which is usually reserved for vowels which are voiced sounds.

Also, m and n, l and r exist in syllabic version, but this you can find, at least for r and l in Czech too : vlk meaning wolf and Brno being a city both have this. This means they are not really consonant clusters, since m, n, l, r in this context are functioning as vowels.

But I have only DEFINED the unusual traits of Proto-Indo-European. This is sth other than to EXPLAIN them as you asked me to do.

Now, PIE is reconstructed and this is how linguists finally agreed to reconstruct it. I just saw a version with only one laryngal (or two, counting voiceless and voiced), which was much closer to Hittite - by another linguist, proposing his reconstruction.

And one possible explanation why the reconstruction of a proto-language seems so odd (laryngals, bh, dh, gh, gh(w), m and n, l and r in syllabic version, all at the same time) may be in my view because the premiss behind the reconstruction, namely existence of a proto-language (like Latin is to the Romance languages) is the wrong explanation for Indo-European communalities. As it happens, that is my view.

pH2tH1r = pronounce pkht-hr … would you call your dad such a sound?

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