A Diachronic Scratchpad

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A Diachronic Scratchpad

Post by Davush »

A Diachronic Scratchpad

I thought I would start a new thread to keep an assortment of my diachronic sketches in one place. Unlike most of my other conlangs which tend to be pre-planned with certain aesthetic/features in mind, I thought I would take a more “serendipitous” approach and see where sound changes (and others) lead, without tailoring them to produce specific outcomes (mostly because I don’t have enough time/energy at the minute for very well-planned conlaging…!).

For now, I am using a proto-language with a simple phonology and mostly CV syllable structure to derive some daughter languages from. This proto-language is intended to have a two-way split, with one branch then further splitting, giving three daughter languages.

Proto-Language Phonology

Stops: *p *t *k *kʷ
Prenasalized stops: *mb *nd *ŋg *ŋgʷ
Nasals: *m *n *ŋ
Fricatives: *s
Liquids: *r
Semivowels: *w *j

Vowels: *a *e *i *o *u *ai *au

Syllables: Mostly CV, with word-final CVC also occuring within roots, where final C can be /p t k m n ŋ s r/. This can lead to some clusters across morpheme boundaries. V can occur word-initially. Stress is assumed to have been non-phonemic (or marginally phonemic), occurring mostly on the penultimate syllable.

Notes: The prenasalized series only occur between vowels, and could also be analyzed as sequences of nasal + stop. *r does not appear to have occurred word-initially. *ai *au do not occur in closed syllables.

Some example words: *tepéki 'stick', *epének 'morning', *íkap 'fish', *suŋúru 'to fly', *umbúro 'fur', *tásam 'hole', *tatísa 'child'

Sound changes producing Descendant A to follow...
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Re: A Diachronic Scratchpad

Post by Davush »

Descendant A: Sound Changes

Stage I

The first two changes probably happened early around the same time, as part of a of chain-shift. These two sets of changes are reflective of the main initial split of the proto-lang.

1a. Lenition and voicing of plosives between vowels. *p *t *k *kʷ > β ð ɣ ɣʷ.
1b. Denasalization of *mb *nd *ŋg *ŋgʷ, which were quickly devoiced > p t k kʷ.

Examples: *tepéki > teβéɣi, *epének > eβének, *íkap > íɣap, *umbúro > upúro, *nénde > néte, *tatísa > taðisa

(The other branch will likely have plain stops remaining unaffected, and prenasalized stops > m n ŋg.)

2a. Raising of pre-tonic *a > /i/ before following stressed *i or stressed *jV.
2b. This likely also occurred around the same time as final CVC attracting stress when final C = *p *t *k. The change *a > /i/ appears to have continued operating after the stress change.

*tatísa > taðísa > tiðísa 'child'
*epének > eβének > eβenék 'morning'
*pámbik > pápik > papík > pipík 'mosquito'

3. Debucalization of word-final *p *t *k *s > /ʔ/. Although word-final *s did not initially attract stress, the stress change was generalized to all resulting word-final Vʔ. Additionally, final /r/ which generally occurs as a grammatical morpheme, is elided.

*epének > eβének > eβenék > eβenéʔ 'morning'
*íkap > íɣap > iɣáp > iɣáʔ 'fish'
*sámbas > sápas > sápaʔ > sapáʔ ‘leg’
*samóror > samóro

Note that *a > /i/ was still operating:
*pájas > pájas > pájaʔ > pijáʔ

4. Assimilation of pre-tonic *i *u and *e *o to the height of the stressed syllable. This continues to operate sporadically for a while after.

*sondútu > sotúðu > sutúðu
*pámbik > > > pipéʔ > pepéʔ

Stage II

5. Word-final *m > ŋ.
*kápin > káβim > káβiŋ

6. Monopthongization of *ai *au > /e o/ in stressed syllables, and /i u/ elsewhere.

*sáita > séða
*tánau > tánu 'lake'

7. Lowering of *i *u > /e o/ before /ʔ ŋ/. This essentially means only /a e o/ are found before coda /ʔ ŋ/.

*kápim > káβim > káβiŋ > káβeŋ

8a. Fortition of *w *j > /ɣʷ z/ when they occur as onset in a stressed syllable. The sequences *ji *ri also show the somewhat peculiar change > /di/ in all positions. *w in unstressed syllables then merges with /β/.
8b. Relatedly, word-initial unstressed *ja *je > /i/ and *jo *ju > /u/.

*járan > záran
*pasári > pasádi
*pájas > pájaʔ > pijáʔ > pizáʔ
*manúwa > manúβa
*jawára > iɣʷára

9. The final change of this stage is the loss of unstressed initial vowels, mostly limited to when the following syllable has an identical vowel. This leads to phonemic word initial /β ð ɣ z/.

*epének > > > βenéʔ
*umbúro > > > púro
*atámba > > > ðápa


I've found it difficult to order chronology of changes properly, especially when a change continues to operate after others have began. For example, the *a > i change continues to operate after several other changes, so perhaps it would simpler (both to notate and to save me time) to position changes according to when they last occur? I.e. *a > i would be after change 3 here, and then assume it stops operating after this point. On this point, is there an average length of time over which sound changes operate? For example, could one last one 100 years, while another is in operation over 1000 years?
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Re: A Diachronic Scratchpad

Post by Davush »

Some morphology

Subject Marking Affixes

The Proto-Language likely had the following subject marking affixes (unspecified for TAM at the minute) on verbs:

1sg: *k-
2sg: *ŋa-
3sg: *-(j/w)i
1pl. *k-…-ŋ
2pl. *-r
3pl. *-r

Interestingly, these are split between prefixes, suffixes, and one circumfix for 1pl.
The 2pl./3pl. markers are identical in form.

The first person prefix *k- is reconstructed without a following vowel, as it likely used an echo vowel of the following syllable for verbs beginning with a consonant.

The second person *ŋa- is reconstructed as having an inherent vowel due to its interaction with vowel-initial stems.

The 3sg. is reconstructed as *-i, with a glide inserted: *w after *u *o, and *j elsewhere.

Additionally, consonant-final stems also appear to have used echo vowels with 1pl. *-ŋ and 2/3pl. *-r.

The 3pl. *-r is reconstructed on the basis of it reappearing with the addition of further suffixes and other branches.

Some examples of the outcomes in Descendant A (using <v> for /β/):

*ténem 'to sleep'
keðéneŋ, ŋaðéneŋ, ténemi
keðémeŋ, téneme, téneme

*kárau 'to drink'
kaɣáru, **ŋaŋáru, káruvi
kaɣáruvaŋ, káruva, káruva

**ŋaŋáru rather than the expected ŋaɣáru occurs due to /ŋVɣ/ sequences assimilating to /ŋVŋ/. Another example is: *ŋuka > *ŋuɣa > ŋuŋa 'eye'. This should probably be considered a synchronic change.

*urátu 'to ask'
kuráðu, ŋuráðu, uráðuvi
kuráðoŋ, uráðu, uráðu

*samóro 'to fear'
kasamóro, ŋasamóro, samórovi
kasamóroŋ, samóro, samóro

*ápa 'to go'
káva, ŋáva, ávi
kávaŋ, áva, áva

*ími 'to come'
kimi, **ŋidími, ímidi
kímeŋ, ími, ími

**As can be seen, *ŋími would be the expected outcome if the 2sg suffix were simply *ŋ-. However, this outcome likely reflects: *ŋa-(j)-ími > *ŋijími (raising of *a > i), ŋidími (depalatalization of *j).
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Re: A Diachronic Scratchpad

Post by Davush »

Descendant B

Descendant A and B form a clade, being unified until sound change 5, after which they split. This stage can be called Common-AB. Descendant B then differs from Descendant A in the following points:

– No vowel lowering before /ʔ ŋ/. A: káβeŋ, B: káβiŋ
– Final *N all > /ŋ/. Whereas A retains final /n ŋ/ as distinct. A: tóðan, B: tóðaŋ
– Monopthongization of *ai *au > /ɛ ɔ/ in all positions, giving B a richer vowel inventory. <ė ȯ>. A: séða, káru, B: sėða, kárȯ
– Loss of initial : A: ŋúŋa, B: úɣa
– /ɣ/ elides before /i/. A: teβéɣi, B: teβéi.
– *w *j lost between vowels in some conditions. This together with the above changes leads to B having many diphthongs/vowel sequences. A: samoróva, B: samoróa
*w merges with /β/ in all positions. And *j does not undergo fortition. Unstressed *ja *je > e. A: záran, iɣʷára, B: járaŋ, eβára

An example of the reflexes of person-marked *kárau "to drink" (assuming no reanalysis or levelling):

A: kaɣáru, ŋaŋáru, káruvi
kaɣáruvaŋ, káruva, káruva

B: kaɣárȯ, aɣárȯ, kárȯi
*kaɣárȯŋ, *kárȯ, *kárȯ

*Unstressed *aua *aia/ > /ɔ ɛ/. A has *aua *aia> /u-βa i-ja/

Not hugely distinct, so perhaps at this stage A and B are divergent dialects, although lexical and grammatical change would also play a significant role.
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