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David Marjanović
*β (also sometimes reconstructed as *h)

Any chance this was a *p once?

David Marjanović

...or its emphatic counterpart even, given that there's a *f in the system, IIRC.


*β almost certainly goes back to *b at an earlier point (Proto-Berber has very few compelling examples for a *b, so there's a gap in the system there). Also some good cognates with Afro-Asiatic languages seem to suggest it's a *b!

David Marjanović

Oh, good. What's the reason for reconstructing it as [h] then – just "we need a consonant that disappears easily"?


Because it surfaces as /h/ in Tuareg and disappears in most Northern dialects with compensatory lengthening of preceding short vowels. Intervocalically it sometimes surfaces as /ww/ or /ggʷ/ in Northern dialects though.

In Ghadames it is /β/ and in Awjili it is /v/, and for some dissimilatory patterns it clearly behaves as a labial (patterning with /m/, /f/ and /b/), which seems difficult to explain if it were *h. Therefore all still living historical linguists of Berber I think are in agreement that *β was some kind of labial. :-)

David Marjanović

That's good enough for me, thanks!

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