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I don't know anything about historic Berber linguistics, so I don't have any idea whether the developments I can think of are structurally possible, but maybe it helps:
1) *əβ > /əu/ > /u:/ > /y:/ >/i:/ > /i/< i.e. going via a long vowel which is fronted while the corresponding short /u/ isn't. Would fit especially if short/long vowel contrasts that subsequently collapse are a part of historical Northern Berber phonology.
2) *əβ > /əu/ > /iu/ > /y/ > /i/. That would parallel developments in Western Germanic languages, where /eu/, /iu/ became /y:/ or /i:/ while /u/, /u:/ were not fronted (or where fronting was a later development, as in Dutch).


Hey, I appreciate the suggestions. It can be of help to not know anything about the subject to give insights that aren't obvious to people deep in the matter

The first development is problematic as /u:/ would collide with Proto-Berber *u which doesn't front.

The second option may be possible but *əβ > /əu/ would probably clash with Proto-Berber *əw which reflects as /u/ in (almost?) all Berber languages.

Glen Gordon

How about /əβ/ > /ə:β/ > /i:β/ > /i:/?


We know *ə < **i and **u, so maybe all of these are cases of **i - any evidence against that?


Well, the evidence for and (Lameen's **i and **u) is extremely slim. So a lack of evidence against it would not be extremely convincing.

Evidence against it would be Labio-Velars in Kabyle followed by a *i < *əβ. Kossmann gives the shift *i < *əβ for Kabyle as uncertain, so there are probably very little examples of this. But I'll have a look.

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