When there is a Y and when there isn't

Campbell, R. Joe campbel at indiana.edu
Sun Feb 10 23:24:01 UTC 2013

Fran, Michael, and Everyone,

notes on ia vs. iya

   First of all, in Nahuatl both /y/ and /w/ tend to be deleted
intervocalically when preceded by /i/ and /o/, respectively. In the
case of /y/, this involves the deletion of one of two adjacent very
similar segments.  In fact, [y] and [i] differ articulatorily only
by syllabicity -- [i] is syllabic and /y/ is non-syllabic.  The same
phenomenon occurs in the Spanish of Northern Mexico: "chair" is
[si-ya] in most other dialects, but in Northern Mexico, it is
commonly pronounced as [si-a].
   In spite of the fact that Nahuatl might be said to lack the
phoneme /u/ because it doesn't have a five vowel system, the /o/
phoneme occupies the back, non-low space, and *behaves* in a way
parallel to the /i/ phoneme -- that is, /w/ engages in the same
tendency to delete when following /o/ (e.g., cempoalli (twenty)).
One who doubts that "cempoalli" has an underlying /w/ should refer
to the preterit form "onicpouh" [onikpow], 'I counted it'.

   So, the rule that one is forced to adopt is that you can't
believe your ears -- in the case of [ia] and [oa], the determination
of the presence of /y/ and /w/ depends on morphological analysis.

   As Fran pointed out, stems that *seem* to be "chia" and "pia" are
really "chiya" and "piya" when the preterits "oquichix" and
"oquipix" are considered.


   The imperfect verb ending is -ya.  In the case of verbs whose
stems end in -a, the [y] of -ya is preserved:

   oquimacaya           he was giving it to him
   ocacalacaya          it was rattling
   oquinamacaya         he was selling it
   oquiquinacaya        he was groaning
   oquipacayah          they were washing it
   ocaanayah            they each took hold of it

   Likewise, the verbs in "-o":

   otemoyah             they were descending
   oquizoya             she was stringing it up

   Passive verbs in -{lo} behave in the same way:

   ocacoya              it was heard
   omacoya              it was given
   ohuicoya             it was brought

   On the other hand, the [y] of the imperfect -ya is frequently
deleted after verbs whose stems end in -i:

   oquimacia            he was fearing him
   onictecia            I was grinding it
   oquimihcaliah        they were fighting against them

   The "verber" suffix -ya which derives "becoming" verbs from nouns
(which is what all "verber" suffixes do |8-) ) loses its /y/ after

   timazatia            you become like a deer
   titochtia            you become like a rabbit
   nahtlehtia           I turn into nothing
   atia                 it melts, it turns into water
   cetiah               they become one, they unite
   itztia               it becomes cold, it chills

   But the presence of /y/ is revealed in preterits such as the following:
(as Fran indicated)

   oatix                it melted
   oitztix              it became cold

   Further, the fact that words like "tochtia" and "mazatia" do not
really end in their apparent "-ia" endings is seen in their preterit
forms.  Real "-ia" endings form their preterits by dropping their
final "-a" and adding "-h", e.g., niteyollalia --> oniteyollalih.
But note the following forms:

   otimazatiac          you became like a deer
   otitochtiac          you became like a rabbit

   Their behavior is due to the fact that they don't really end in
"-ia", but in "-iya", as has already been seen in the behavior of
"atia" and "itztia".

   (I hadn't really understood the meaning of Michael's note before
I wrote this.)


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