Fortunatov's Law and tolkAppiyar's rules

Vidhyanath Rao vidynath at MATH.OHIO-STATE.EDU
Thu Aug 6 14:42:07 UTC 1998

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan <Palaniappa at AOL.COM>

[To keep the post within reasonable bounds, I will limit myself to the
general points.]

>I am amazed at the logical inconsistency here. Vidynath bases his view
>of n, n2, N convergence on a situation in Pittsburgh much farther
>removed in time and space than the South Asian Malayalam.

You are confusing two different things, namely general processes and the
specific initial conditions where/when they come into play. It is a
basic principle of all science that general processes should be same
(i.e, similar causes should lead to similar effects). It is easier to
observe them in contemporary situations (or labs), which is why they are
used in theoretical discussions. But when we apply the theory to
specific situations, we need to pay close attention to the initial
conditions. [The reference I have in mind dealt with other examples too.
I mentioned Pittsburgh because that is only book I have seen which dealt
with it in detail and I was hoping that somebody else will know which
book it is.]

>First of all, the phonology of Tamil n given by Vidynath is wrong. n can
>occur medially -intervocalically as well as doubled. It can also occur
>in the word- final position as in "verin".

What I said concerning the phonology of Dravidian in general is based
on Zvelebil's Comparative Dravidian Phonology, pp. 113-114. `verin'
seems to be from a pre-form in -nt-. The forms with -n- are isolated
and do not contradict the fact that n and _n belong to the same

>Secondly, if this theory were true, IA in India should not have
>maintained any phonemic distinction of voiced and unvoiced stops.

The same problem, as I have pointed out before, affects the claim that
retroflexes are due to Dravidian speakers mispronouncing alveolars.

Regarding the presence of .s in Dravidian: The nature of Dr .z or
whatever you want to call it is still a matter of much discussion. But
very few people consider it to be a shibilant. Nor does it seem to
cause retrolfexion of following t. [It does not in Tamil.]

In borrowings, .s sometimes becomes `zh', other times .t.
In reverse, Dr `zh' is sometimes l (phala < pazham), other times
.l/.d (Tamil cozha is co.da already in a vartika, presumably for

The evidence for c/zh alternation seems to admit other explanations.
See CDP pp 129--130.

It is not true that retroflexes are not found in other IE languages.
Deshpande's assertion (in the same paper) that pre/proto-Dravidian must
have lacked retroflexes before it entered India and must be
attributed to some non-Dravidian substratum is symptomatic of the
prejudice which I mentioned elsewhere, and to me, vitiates the whole

This ties in nicely with what Vidal wrote, in response to another post
of mine:

>>In the past, the there was a strong prejudice that retroflex sounds
>>could not occur in `real IE', and people attempted to restrict it
>>to Indic. Old habits die hard.

>Nonsense: English, Swedish, Sardo, Asturian, Polish and Russian are
>`real European IE' and have retroflex sounds.

I am not sure what is characterized as `nonsense'. If it is the belief
of special connection between India and retroflexion, I agree fully. If
it the claim that such prejudice is not totally dead, I think that you
need to read more widely.


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