PAn consonant inventory (Blust 1999)

Loren Billings sgnillib at GMAIL.COM
Wed Sep 2 14:22:41 UTC 2009

On Wed, Sep 2, 2009 at 21:41, <josh.ruthamy at> wrote:

>   C
>   N [voiceless nasal?]
>   S
> Are these standard transcriptions for Austronesianists?

Josh (CC: an-lang),

Occasionally, when performing the comparative method, the linguist
concludes that there is another protosound of a particular kind but is
unsure of this other sound's exact phonetic value.

I just pulled down the paper (which, I assume, you mean to be
"Subgrouping, circularity, and extinction," from the 8-ICAL volume).
Blust (1999:34) does a really good job of explaining what he means by
*N (some sort of coronal nasal). And no, Blust does not suggest on
this page that this *N was voiceless. Blust is less explicit about the
phonetic values for the other protosounds reconstructed using capital

Might I suggest that you direct your attention to his table 2
(1999:43), where, despite a few capital letters along the top row (for
Proto-Austronesian), the columns below each contain explicit reflexes
in the modern languages. As it were, the author is not putting the
spoon in your mouth in a few reconstructions.

More generally, this is just one of those things that the scholarly
literature often assumes and often does not explain. In fact, I was
just having dinner a couple of hours ago with an MA student about to
undertake an MA thesis on an Austronesian language of Taiwan (not
Rukai) and I had to explain why the Actor of a non-Actor clause is
labeled _genitive_ and why _focus_ means something like 'voice'. These
latter types of issues I'm sure you can ask your new faculty member
Joey Sabbagh about.


Loren A. Billings, Ph.D.
Associate professor of linguistics
Department of Foreign Languages and Literature
National Chi Nan University
Puli, Nantou County 545 Taiwan

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