Marianne Mithun mithun at
Mon Nov 22 23:48:53 UTC 2004

That tsi- looks like the trace of a very old morpheme, no longer generally
segmentable and certainly not productive, that appears in numerous terms
for birds, bugs, and other such things. The -?t actually matches in form a
common nominalizer in the modern languages (which also systematically match
instrumental applicatives and causatives). So though this form is not
synchronically analyzable, I'd say there's good evidence that it was once

The Cherokee form looks like a lot of words through Iroquoian and beyond
for 'robin', one of those words that turns up all over the continent.
Mohawk for 'robin', for example, is tsiskó:ko.


--On Monday, November 22, 2004 4:31 PM -0700 Koontz John E
<John.Koontz at> wrote:

> On Mon, 22 Nov 2004, R. Rankin wrote:
>> No, I think not for several reasons.  Cherokee doesn't participate very
>> much in the Southeast Sprachbund.  But the main problem is the
>> affricate.  It's apparently reconstructible in Iroquoian, so any other
>> SE language that borrowed it would have to have adopted [ts] as /t/, and
>> that's extremely unlikely for languages like Muskogean and Siouan, both
>> of which had /c/ phonemes they could have substituted but didn't.
> Cherokee has tsiskwa 'bird' per David and Wally indicates that
> "Proto-Northern-Iroquoian {has a] noun root *-tsi?t- for 'bird'" and that
> the *tsi part of this is probably cognate with the Cherokee form, but he
> didn't actually say that the Proto-Iroquoian would be *tsi.  Remembering
> that affrication is often a parallel shift, and knowing essentially
> nothing about Proto-Iroquoian (or recent Iroquoian), Northern or Southern
> or combined, I was wondering if were possible that affrication were fairly
> recent in at least the Cherokee case.
> I agree that it seems more like that a ts would be borrowed as c^,
> otherwise, given Muskogean and Biloxi phonology.

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