Three-Way Contrast of Secondary Articulations in PIE

Rich Alderson alderson+mail at
Thu Mar 22 20:00:13 UTC 2001

In the following, we are using the American practice of writing <y> for IPA <j>
and <"u> for IPA <y>.

On 17 Mar 2001, Patrick Ryan wrote:

> If an IE word with [i] could be related convincingly as a cognate with an AA
> word containing [y] in the same position, would that influence your opinion
> of the phonemic status of [i] in IE?

Not in the least.  History does not equate to synchronic phonology.

Further, any PAA or PN reconstruction that recognized *y but not *i would have
to come under very close scrutiny before I found it acceptable.

> And, I also wonder if, perhaps, we are talking past each other. I do not
> doubt that, at some point, [i] became phonemic in IE. It is just that I favor
> the idea that in earliest IE, what became [i] must have been [y]. Does that
> make any difference in your position?

I think that we may indeed be talking past each other.  The Lehmann system
calls for *phonetic* [i] at all stages, with /i/ arising at a late stage when a
distinction arose between *i and *y.  My position is that at no stage was there
only a phoneme /y/, though there *may* have been a stage with a phoneme /i/ and
no phoneme /y/.  I think that recognizing that *i and *y (mutatis mutandis, *u
and *w) fell into morphophonemic alternations without trying to reduce either
to the other allows us *more* leeway in seeking out possible external relations
(for which discussion we need to move to the Nostratic list).

								Rich Alderson

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