« *βaseless speculation | Main | Go up to the moon »

05/21/2011

Comments

Etherman23

I know almost nothing about Japanese so this idea is pure speculation. Suppose that Japanese had a schwa vowel. Assume the gerund was actually @te. Since schwa tends to be a weak vowel it could easily be lost. For example, after a root ending in a vowel, besides schwa, the schwa is dropped. After a consonant the schwa is also dropped. However, after another schwa the first schwa dissimilates to i and then the second schwa is dropped.

As for the disappearing velars my rampant speculation is that they were originally velar fricatives and in some situations (which ones? don't ask me)were dropped but in others were hardened to stops.

PhoeniX

Appreciate the brainstorming. But the idea does not cover all the problems.

You would want to see hanasite as hanas@+@te, There is no obvious reason why all stems ending in s would have an @, while all stems ending in any other consonant don't have it.

The velars definitely have something to do with fricatives. We find Ryukyuan languages that indeed have h for k, and I believe some Japanese languages show the same thing.

Part of the reason that the rule is irregular is due to dialectal diffusion, this sound rule took place during the times that the centers of power in Japan were still actively shifting, and this has ended up with a sound law which was happening around the kyoto area being transferred only partially to the edo (now tokyo) area. Then later again the influence of Tokyo Japanese made the shift of the lost k irregular in kyoto area too.

This seems convoluted, and I'm not entirely clear on the development here, but I do know it plays some role.

We see more of these weird double-dialect stuff in modern Japanese. For example, Why is the polite negative -masen from -masu while impolite negatives are sasanai from sasu?

Well that's because of the Kansai area that still has form with -hen these days (s shifted to h) influenced the polite speech back in the days. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kansai_dialect#Negative

While it is still annoying that k is so irregularly lost, we at least sort of understand why it is irregularly lost. But we still do not fully understand why i in -site wasn't lost while it was lost everywhere else.

Hans

"While it is still annoying that k is so irregularly lost, we at least sort of understand why it is irregularly lost. But we still do not fully understand why i in -site wasn't lost while it was lost everywhere else."
Can it be that phonotactics at one point simply didn't allow for -st- while -tt- was fine? Let's we assume that at this point the variants with retained /i/ and with syncope of /i/ were variants (compare English where the vowel in -ed is normally silent, but can be realised as /@/ in poetry), but when -st- became disallowed, only -site remained in use, while for cases where the result was a geminate, the variant with /i/ was eliminated:
Stage I: -site -pite -tite
Stage II: -site / -ste, -pite/-pte -tite/-tte
Stage III (after assimilation of stops): -site / -ste, -pite/-tte -tite/-tte
Stage IV: (elimination of inadmissible variants) -site, -tte, -tte
If we assume the rule did not just concern /s/, but other fricatives as well, we can also solve the riddle of /k/ and /g/:
Stage I: -kite -gite
Stage II: -kite/-kte -gite/-gde
Stage III: -hite/-hte -γite/-γde
At Stage II or III the variants -gite/-gde or -γite/-γde influenced each other with the result that /d/ was transferred to the variant containg /i/ - it seems reasonable to assume that the syncopated form was the more frequent one and the rule for creating the "long" variant was to insert /i/ between the consonants of the short form.
Stage IV: (elimination of inadmissible variants)
-hite, -γide
Stage V: Loss of the spirants.
Now, I don't no anything about Japanese historical phonotactics and sound laws, so I don't know if this explanation is at all plausible?

PhoeniX

It's a bit convoluted but, I like the way you were able to incorporate the Velar elision into the explanation as well.

We have no evidence that the velars were ever spirants of course. But I guess it's hard to get rid of /g/ at least in a different way. /k/ could also have gone on to be a glottal stop and then disappear.

Yeah, very nice idea.

But of course it's ad hoc, it's a plausible scenario that only explains this phenomenon and has no explanatory power outside of this construction. Because of that, there is absolutely no way to check whether it's true.

But due to the irregularity of this part of the system, I think it'd probably one of the best things we can do sadly.

Hans

"But of course it's ad hoc, it's a plausible scenario that only explains this phenomenon and has no explanatory power outside of this construction. Because of that, there is absolutely no way to check whether it's true."
You are of course right. Are there similar developments (syncope of vowels with subsequent assimilation of stops) elsewhere in the development of Classical to Modern Japanese? What happens to /g/ elsewhere? If it was always prenasalised, we would expect "-nde" here as well, wouldn't we? Are there any cases of geminate voiced stops in Japanese? What happened to other consonnant clusters with /k/ as first element?

minus273

An idea that just popped out my head: isn't the k- -> ite, g- -> ide formation parallel to the Kansai rule of p- -> ute, b -> ude?

Not clear what that would imply, though.

The comments to this entry are closed.