Retroflexion in IA

Vidhyanath Rao vidynath at MATH.OHIO-STATE.EDU
Thu Jul 30 17:46:26 UTC 1998

A bad case of poison ivy on my left hand made typing painful. That,
with other demands, delayed my replies quite a bit. I hope that it is
not too late pick up the thread again.

George Thompson <thompson at JLC.NET> wrote:

>In deference to the 2k rule I will try to respond briefly, and only to one
>or two points at a time:

The recommended way around the 2k rule is to have a private discussion.
Setting up a temporary mailing list seems overkill. Perhaps the posters
can mail their posts privately to all interested people. I volunteer to
collect the messages and send a digest to Dominik to post on the
Indology page for posterity (if it is interested :-). For now, I will
limit myself to just the first point.

>>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.

>but in this case I fail to see why the merging of all n's would be the
>necessary outcome of convergence.

I based this on something I read about dialect interactions. My laziness
in keeping a notebook has come back to haunt me: I cannot locate the
book where I read it. [This was specifically about Pittsburg dialect.]
The basic argument is as follows: Dialect A distinguishes two phonemes P
and Q. Dialect B does not. Speakers of B rely on context etc. to tell
the words apart. This works even if P and Q are pronounced differently.
But speakers of A rely only on the sound and have trouble understanding
B-speakers. With repeated interaction, A-speakers start relying on context
to tell words apart. So the difference between P and Q becomes irrelevant.

Given the distributional peculiarities in Dravidian, the same argument
should work for n. In Dravidian, n occurs word-initially and before t;
_n everywhere else. Sanskrit anu would come out a_nu. If Sanskrit speakers
hear it as, then the anu vs distinction is lost. The same
works in reverse. [I don't know PDr lexion, so I will use Tamil.] Tamil
pa_ni and will come out the same from Sanskrit speaker's mouth. In
both cases, the speakers must rely on context to distinguish the words,
leading to the irrelevance of the phonemic distinctions.

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

So the only question now is the pronunication:-) Or how substratum can
cause sounds that did not exist in it.

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