L vs. R

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mingshey
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L vs. R

Post by mingshey » Tue Dec 30, 2003 6:03 am

A few days ago I talked on the Open Board about Korean( and Japanese) having no distinction between l and r. But yesterday, revisiting those Linear B character set, I was surprised to find that the Micenean Greek words written in Linear B had no such distinction, either; Linear B had no 'L-' series characters and the 'L' sounds were written with the 'R-' characters, and that added the similarity between Linear B and Japanese Kana system.( Kana can be directly used to write the Micenean Greek words!)

Was it only that the Miceneans had defective character set, or did they REALLY had no distinction between L and R?

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Dionusius Philadelphus
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Post by Dionusius Philadelphus » Tue Dec 30, 2003 1:18 pm

L.R. Palmer, The Interpretation of Mycenaean Greek Texts, p. 39:
The existence in the syllabary of a system of oppositions plain : palatalized : labialized to the neglect of the oppositions voiceless : voiced : aspirate, which are essential to Greek, strongly suggests that the ancestral form of the syllabary was created for a non-Indo-European language. Such phonemic systems are found inter alia among Caucasian languages.
Considering that liquids are persistent in Indo-European, and that later Greek shows L or R where they're expected, a defective syllabary is a tidy explanation.
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Post by chad » Tue Dec 30, 2003 11:44 pm

as a bit of trivia, apparently aristotle himself couldn't pronounce L and R differently... :)

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mingshey
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Post by mingshey » Tue Aug 14, 2007 4:20 pm

It's an old topic here :).
I bet IE keeps the distinction between R and L. But R is pronounced differently in different languages. Maybe the Greek trilling R is too close to L to keep its identity tightly.
In the Classical Greek there's a case of word conjugation that shows a change of value between R and L:
á¼”Ï￾χομαι -> ἦλθον
This may be an exceptional case, that there are change of values in following stops(ΡΧ and ΛΘ), too.

And in MG, some literature says αδεÏ￾φός is the word for "brother" while another says αδελφός.

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Post by Chris Weimer » Tue Aug 14, 2007 7:20 pm

Mingshey, you mean no written distinction, right? I've heard Korean spoken for years with a clear distinction between l and r. Medial ㄹ had an r sound, but final ㄹ had a dark l sound. At least, this was the way she pronounced it. She was from Seoul.

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Post by Lucus Eques » Tue Aug 14, 2007 7:43 pm

I believe that the trilled 'r' of Greek, Latin, and Italian, among others, is quite distinct from 'l' in any language. Still, this didn't keep Spanish from mixing the two quite a bit: peligro < periculum. And in English we have "colonel" from Spanish, where the spelling eventually came to match the sound: coronel.

Even modern Greek has both αδελφός and αδεÏ￾φός.
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Didymus
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Post by Didymus » Wed Aug 15, 2007 2:28 am

Coincidentally this evening I happened to be reading Chadwick's The Decipherment of Linear B. The following bit is apposite (p. 97):
John Chadwick wrote:One slight complication is purely the result of our system of transliteration. It is true that the sign transliterated ka can represent also ga or kha; but to the native reader the sign was not any one of these. It simply indicated a velar stop, the exact nature of which was determined by the context. It is therefore pointless to talk of a Mycenaean failure to distinguish between l and r; for convenience of transliteration we have to choose one or the other (in fact we arbitrarily selected r), but the Mycenaeans merely used the same set of signs for both sounds. English speakers have little cause to complain, when they use th for two different sounds, and gh for a whole series. Modern languages, however, generally prefer the opposite complication: the same sound is written in many different ways.

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mingshey
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Post by mingshey » Wed Aug 15, 2007 2:43 pm

Chris Weimer wrote:Mingshey, you mean no written distinction, right? I've heard Korean spoken for years with a clear distinction between l and r. Medial ㄹ had an r sound, but final ㄹ had a dark l sound. At least, this was the way she pronounced it. She was from Seoul.
Yes, as for Korean that's basically right but the final ㄹ(l) easily turns into initial ㄹ(r) when followed by a syllable starting with a vowel. Also the initial ㄹ(r) readily turns into "l" when preceded by a closed syllable(i.e. ending with a consonant). So in Korean l and r are truely in the same phoneme. And it doesn't end there. Korean phoneme ㄹ has quite different from just a mixture of l and r. Stangely enough for Europeans, some American pronunciations of (weakened) t or d in an unaccented syllable are heard as initial ㄹ(r) for Koreans(e.g. "t" in "data", "d" in the first "do" of "How do you do?", etc.). This much for the story of "ㄹ". :wink:

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Post by mingshey » Wed Aug 15, 2007 2:43 pm

Thanks for the quote, Didymus.

As for European languages, can I say that l and r are clearly distinct phonemes but the sounds can be grouped as liquids, and thus can undergo some interchanges in the course of translation, transliteration with inadequate writing system, or time? Stops also had undergone such interchanges between dialects(Attic: πότε; Ionic: κότε; Doric: πόκα).

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