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Laryngeals etc

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Laryngeals etc

Postby Thucydides » Tue Apr 20, 2004 6:27 pm

Can anybody give me a brief summary/explanation of all this laryangeal/schwa stuff? It's obviosuly a major part of PIE philology but it seems very confusing to me. I understand that they were consonants, but why are they listed (in Sihler) in conjunction with vowels (such as eH1) and what effect do they have on subsequent languages (i.e. reflexes)?

Or is it not possible to summarise this issue? It certainly seems complicated and contraversial.
Last edited by Thucydides on Mon May 03, 2004 7:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Ptolemaios » Wed Apr 21, 2004 7:32 am

It's certainly complicated, but I'm not sure it's still controversial. I think the laryngeals are listed with vowels because their reflections in Latin & Greek are (mostly?) vowels.
If Sihler isn't clear enough, you may try another book such as:

R.S.P. Beekes, Comparative Indo-European linguistics : an introduction (Amsterdam: Benjamins, 1995)
H. Rix, Historische Grammatik des Griechischen.

Sorry, not much help I can offer you right now.

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Postby Paul » Tue Apr 27, 2004 12:01 pm

Hi,

It is complicated. I've yet to see a wholly lucid explanation. But here's a simplified condensation of the several sources I've read (Beekes, Palmer, Sihler).

Ancient greek shows two different systems of vowel alternation (ablaut). The more familiar one is the variation between

e,o,0 (where zero means the vowel is completely lost)

An example in greek of this ablaut sequence is

[face=SPIonic]lei/pw, le/loipa, e)/lipon[/face]

The less familiar system shows alternation between several sets of long vowels, e.g.,

long e, long o, e (where the last e represents the zero grade)

An example in greek of this ablaut sequence is

[face=SPIonic]ti/qhmi, qwmo/j, qeto/j[/face]

This leads to table of ablaut relations as shown below (this table also shows the other two long vowel ablaut sequences).

e, o, 0
long e, long o, e
long a, long o, a
long o, long o, o

Seeking to simplify this system, Saussure suggested that perhaps the long versions of the vowels were really equivalent to e
plus some other entity. That is:

long e = e + ?1
long a = e + ?2
long o = e + ?3

This suggestion simplified the greek ablaut system by basing it on the single, commoner ablaut sequence. A table of this simplified system
looks like this:

e, o, 0
eE, oE, E
eA, oA, A
eO, oO, O

Saussure called these entities (E,A,O) 'coefficients sonantiques'. They later came to be called schwas; then laryngeals (written H1, H2, H3).
Whatever they are called, some of their effects in greek are:

Before a vowel - a laryngeal disappears but not before coloring the vowel. Examples:

H1e > [face=SPIonic]e[/face]
H2e > [face=SPIonic]a[/face]
H3e > [face=SPIonic]o[/face]

whence

[face=SPIonic]e)/dw[/face] < *H1ed-
[face=SPIonic]a)/gw[/face] < *H2eg-


Before a consonant at the start of a word - a laryngeal becomes a 'prothetic' vowel, and these vowels retain the character of
their original laryngeal. Examples:

[face=SPIonic]a)me/lgw[/face] < *H2melg-
[face=SPIonic]o)re/gw[/face] < *H3reg-


In vowel, laryngeal, consonant (VHC) sequences - a laryngeal disappears but colors and lengthens the vowel. Examples:

[face=SPIonic]ti/qhmi[/face] < *dhi-dheH1-mi
[face=SPIonic]i(/stami[/face] < *si-steH2-mi
[face=SPIonic]di/dwmi[/face] < *di-dheH3-mi

I hope this helps.

Cordially,

Paul
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Postby Thucydides » Wed Apr 28, 2004 6:11 pm

Thank you very much indeed. That's really useful.

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Postby Paul » Wed Apr 28, 2004 9:41 pm

My pleasure. :)

Cordially,

Paul
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Postby Thucydides » Sun May 02, 2004 12:41 pm

Now that I've had another look at Sihler I understand why the laryngeals seem so hard and are hard to explain. The problem is that they are inextricably linked with ablaut but also need inclusion in the vowel section.
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