Retroflexion in IA

George Thompson thompson at JLC.NET
Wed Jul 15 01:48:12 UTC 1998

In deference to the 2k rule I will try to respond briefly, and only to one
or two points at a time:
>A seemingly minor point, but one that, IMHO, matters is that
>in Proto-Dravidian, t, _t and .t are distinct phonemes, but n/_n is
>opposed to .n.

This is beyond my competence. Perhaps others can help here [please].
>To me convergence implies two-way influence. If two different languages,
>one with just one n and another with n/_n vs .n, interact with each
>other, convergence should lead to merging of all n's. It would be rather
>strange if _n becomes .n distinct from n. [In general, if two groups,
>one which distinguishes two sounds and another which does not but
>depends on context etc to differentiate words, interact, the typical
>outcome is for the sounds to merge.]
Again, linguistic typology is beyond my competence, but in this case I fail
to see why the merging of all n's would be the necessary outcome of
convergence. The opposite would seem just as likely. There's a new book out
by Ladefoged and somebody else on the world's phonological systems, which
my bookstore is getting for me. I'll report back after I've had a chance to
look at it. Perhaps it will tell us what is "typical" in this regard.


>How about the following:
>    Stage 0: Speakers of Proto-IA/Pre-IA migrate into South Asia. At
>    this stage, PIIr t, d, dh, n were each one phoneme. These must have
>    had allophones already produced >behind< the alveolar ridge. But s
>    and .s must be already distinct.

Yes, the RUKI rule is older than PIA, affecting Iranian as much as Indic.

I also see little to disagree with in general about your Stages 1 and 2.
But it would be imteresting to know what time-frame you picture for these

Enough for now. Are others willing [I know that some are able] to
contribute insights?

Many thanks to V. Rao for keeping this thread alive, and lively.

George Thompson

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