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Note on the peH3 Root in French

Cercle de Bathyphonologie (Andrée Borillo, Peter Cannings, Benoît de Cornulier, José Deulofeu, Karl Zimmer). Mars 1975. Paru dans Papers in linguistics 8:3-4 pp.459, fall-winter 1975. 2ème édition.

As Lightner (1974) and (1975) demonstrates in the frame of generative phonology, such French words as boire, buvons, bu, bibine, potable, symposium1 must be derived synchronically from the root peH3, where H3 is an o-coloring laryngeal. This synchronic root accounts both for their semantic and phonetic similarity. Any analysis which fails to incorporate this type of derivation fails to account for both types of similarity.

We would like to observe that to allow this sort of very abstract underlying representation in contemporary French enables us to predict the tautological character of such sentences as Le pote boit toute la bibine du symposium.2 We believe, however, that an interesting fact has been overlooked, namely that pastis-drinkers throughout the South of France, when urged to have a drink together, usually utter a sequence of phones superficially analysable as [sasɛ̃posə]; this custom has been reported by septentrional drinkers who have spelled it as “Ça s’impose”, thus introducing a paradox in Southern grammar since s’imposer is typically northern. Reporting this sequence as ça sympose would account both for the phonetic shape of the utterance and for the fact that it can’t be uttered by a lonely drinker, since it means something like We really must have one more drink together.

1 - to drink, (we) drink, drunk, beverage, drinkable, symposium.

2 - The guy drinks all the liquor of the symposium.

3 - Gilles Gaston Granger (personal communication) pointed out that classical Greek Πινεῖν καὶ βινεῖν might lead to a deeper B2 in the frame of coherent generative bathyphonology.


Chomsky, N., and M. Halle, 1968, The sound pattern of English, Harper and Row.

Lightner, T., 1974, Boire en famille, paper delivered at the Symposium on Méthodes en grammaire française, décembre 1974, Paris.

____, 1975, Remarks on the root of the boire family and some notes on Indo-European, in Rapport de recherches no4, pp. 1-25, LADL, Université de Paris-7 et de Paris-Vincennes.

[Reprinted with permission of the editor.]

On the Go ~ Went Alternation: A Contribution (?) to the Generative Phonology of English—Bernard Comrie
A Strange Datum From Deep Onomastic Space—Fom Pop
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