Any casual observer of the Indo-
Russ. nemets Span. alemán Lat.-A germanus Lat.-B teutonus Ital. tedesco Ger. Deutsch1
The following similarities are immediately evident:
(1) All begin with an alveolodental consonant (ignoring, for the moment, the prefixes of Latin-A and Spanish). (2) With the single exception of Spanish all show some kind of sibilant as their final consonant or in their final consonant cluster. (3) With the exception of German and, superficially, of Latin-A, all contain the general phonotactic structure C1V1C2V2C3.
In fact the only major schism to be found among the forms is that between the sonorant-
Strangely enough, among the reams of work done to date on the reconstruction of Proto-
Without wasting any more time on preliminaries, I propose to get right to the matter of reconstructing the proto-
The similarities cited above can be better appreciated by being displayed in a form such as Table 1.
As I already pointed out, Russian, Spanish, and Latin-A favor sonorant consonants in the root structure, while German, Italian, and Latin-B favor obstruents. Since this division also represents geographically a peripheral/central split, we may consider the sonorant (peripheral) forms to be remnants of the original form, while the obstruent (central) forms suggest a later innovation.
Among the sonorant forms, all have the medial m, and two out of three show the sequence man. As for the initial consonant, it was obviously an alveolar sonorant, namely, r, l, or n. Since it is unlikely that a word that already contained two nasals would assimilate another sound for a third nasal (on the contrary, as I show below), it seems clear that the initial nasal of Russian represents the original form: n-V-man.
Although three of the forms have e for V1, again on the basis of probably natural sound changes
In the matter of suffixes, the pervasiveness of the final sibilant in most forms strongly suggests that the -us suffix of the two Latin forms was present in the proto-
There remains now only to follow the vicissitudes of *neumanus into the daughter languages. Let us begin with the period of common development. Most of the changes of the early period are self-
| Ger. early|
|Nas. dissim.||—||alemans|| germanus|
A few comments may help to guide the reader through the table.
Prefixing. In two of the languages, Latin-A and Spanish respectively, the word undergoes a form of folk morphosemantic assimilation or dissimilation, respectively, which we shall call, respectively, homeopathic and allopathic prefixing. This means simply that in the first case a word referring to a language or ethnic group takes on a prefix commonly associated with that group
Vowel deletion. For most speakers, the diphthong eu was, frankly, difficult to pronounce. While Latin-A deleted it altogether, other languages deleted only the u; this latter reaction, however, led to the overreaction of deleting all u in the word, diphthongal and innocent alike. German had a larger problem on its hands: a triphthong; this was resolved by deleting a, but here also overreaction carried vowel-
Nasal dissimilation. The dissimilation in Latin-A was perfectly predictable (cf. can-men > carmen). To understand the process in Latin-B and Italian, however, we must bear in mind that these languages abhorred the triple nasal as Nature abhors a vacuum. In addition, both languages had changed little before this point and had to make up for lost time. The solution was radical, by present-
/ ___ (X) N (X) #
After the period of common development, the processes in German German that altered the diphthong’s pronunciation but left its spelling alone and that palatalized the clustered sibilant are well known. Likewise in Latin-B, it takes little imagination to discern the process of progressive labialization whereby teupanus > teuponus, nor the bilateral assimilation of p by the flanking dentals, for teutonus (Q.E.D.). Of more interest is the sporadic metathesis of Ital. tepets > teteps, and the secondary metathesis that gave tetesp (this successive metathesis involving three elements, by the way, has been dubbed shellgame metathesis, for obvious reasons). Even with these advances, however, the word no doubt had a “foreign” sound to the average Italian speaker, and it is little wonder that the word was now “naturalized” by intervocalic voicing and by addition of the typically Italian suffix -o. It is the final development of Ital. *tedespo to the modern tedesco that has the greatest implications for phonological theory, however, as it involves a dissimilation of the feature [anterior], thus settling definitively the question of this much-
[+ant] → [-ant] / [+ant] (X) [+ant] (X) __
In conclusion, I wish to point out that the real challenge in *neumanus and its congeners lies not in the Indo-
Hungarian nemet Tagalog Alemán Thai yermun Turkish Alman Zulu Jalimane
If the possibilities of using the lexeme German to establish language relationships has been merely neglected within the Indo-
1 Other Indo-
2 By the way, I wish to thank my associate A. E. Newmann for his key suggestions at formative stages in my reasoning. I also take this opportunity to extend kind regards to my Uncle Andrew, without whose influence this study would have been “a whole nother else”. For any errors I have committed the former is responsible; the latter, not.
3 An unusual process at first glance, to be sure. But generative phonologists of the “natural” school will be interested to know that such radical denasalization and devoicing is not unknown among young children of the Falsomoedeiro clans of the upper Amazon. Their elders, however, try to nip it in the bud, as it promotes confusion between the baby-
|My Fair Linguist, or Male-Pygion—Tom Ernst and Evan Smith|
|Speech Errors as Evidence for Historical Generative Phonology—Joseph Paul Stemberger|
|Son of Lingua Pranca Contents|