Retroflexion in IA (was Re: Munda in Early NW India)

proto-language proto-language at
Wed Apr 25 02:46:11 UTC 2001

[ Moderator's note:
  Further discussion of the Nostratic issues brought up below should move to
  the Nostratic list.  Discussion of Indo-European specific issues can continue
  here.  -- rma ]

Dear Nath and IEists:

 ----- Original Message -----
From: "Vidhyanath Rao" <rao.3 at>
Sent: Saturday, April 21, 2001 6:15 AM


> Just when I finished writing the above, I got the message in which
> Pat Ryan wrote:

>> [...] Modifying some apicals to a retroflex articulation helped disambiguate
>> somewhat since they indicated a Nostratic root with [o] not [a] or [e];

> Huh? You mean contrast of `Nostratic [o] vs Nostratic [a]/[e]' (whatever they
> are) was preserved till the split of IA so the speakers could decide when to
> change `apicals' to retroflex? Or do you mean PIE *o vs PIE *a/*e
> (that is demonstrably false).

I have a feeling you may not agree but, at least, let me clarify what I meant.

Nostratic had three phonemic vowels: [e], [a], and [o].

When IE developed from it, during a transitional period, vowel-quality was
neutralized, and the semantic function of front and back vowels was supplied by
palatal and velar glides.

As triconsonantal roots were developed, the need for discriminating CyaC, CwaC,
and Cac semantically was ameliorated, and, in many cases the glides were

In some IE languages, former dorsal+y-glides became palatalized; in a few other
IE languages, apical+w-glides became retroflexed.

Regarding retroflexion, the four emphatics of Semitic (D,T,S,Z) are the result
of the same process; and Dravidian retroflexes are also, where original, the
result of the same process. Obviously, over time, some retroflexes originated
through proximity to other retroflexes or similarly articulated sounds.


PATRICK C. RYAN | PROTO-LANGUAGE at (501) 227-9947 * 9115 W. 34th
St. Little Rock, AR 72204-4441 USA WEBPAGES: PROTO-LANGUAGE: and PROTO-RELIGION: "Veit ec
at ec hecc, vindgá meiði a netr allar nío, geiri vndaþr . . . a þeim
meiþi, er mangi veit, hvers hann af rótom renn." (Hávamál 138)

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