Inheritance versus lexical borrowing: a case with decisive sound-change evidence

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There has been quite a bit of interest in a series of guest posts by Don Ringe on the early linguistic history of Europe. Yesterday, he sent along another installment, which I've posted below on his behalf, as well as an answer to a question from the comments on an earlier post, which I'll post separately.

This series is more technical than usual for Language Log, but enough readers have responded in a positive way that it's clearly a good idea to continue. Those who are not familiar with the methods of historical linguistics, or with the languages discussed, should still be able to get a sense of the structure of the argument, and the nature of the research process. (As before, a pdf version is here — if some forms or formatting look odd, check the pdf.)

[Guest post by Don Ringe]


In an earlier posting I raised the question whether sound change ever helps us distinguish between inherited and borrowed words in historically interesting cases.  There are at least a few such cases; here is one I happen to know about.

There is a family of words relating to political leadership attested in widely separated languages of the non-Anatolian, non-Tocharian clade of the Indo-European family, as follows.

Sanskrit: rā́(Rigveda only) and rā́jā (n-stem) ‘king’; rā́jñī ‘queen’; rājyám ‘lordship’(once in the Rigveda, scanned as three syllables).
Latin: rēx, rēg- ‘king’; rēgīna ‘queen’; rēgnum ‘kingship, kingdom’.
Celtic: Gaulish -rīx in personal names (Dumno-rīx ‘World-king’, Ver-cingeto-rīx ‘Super-hero-king’, etc.) and pl. -rīges in tribal names (Bitu-rīges ‘World-kings’, etc.);
British Celtic -rīx in the personal name Votepo-rīx ‘The-king-is-his-refuge’;
Old Irish rí, ríg- ‘king’; rígain ‘queen’; ríge ‘kingship’.

From these cognates it is easy to reconstruct a preform *rēǵ- ‘king’ (the ancestor of all the masculine nouns except the Sanskrit n-stem rā́jā, which was probably backformed to ‘queen’); from the Vedic and Irish cognates it is equally easy to reconstruct *rḗǵn̥ih2 ‘queen’, and it seems likely that Latin rēgīna has somehow been remodelled from the same preform.  (Of course in the last common ancestor of these languages ‘king’ must have meant something very different in practice from what it meant in mediaeval Europe, for example!)  The Irish noun reflects a Proto-Celtic *rīgiom (the ending is reconstructable because the OIr. noun is a neuter io-stem); since the corresponding Sanskrit noun appears to be an archaic relic, we might hazard reconstructing a preform *rēǵióm ‘king­ship’, though the formation is commonplace enough that the two nouns might have been created independently.  Latin rēgnum is clearly an independent innovation.

There are also some Germanic nominals which appear to belong to the same family of words, as follows.

Gothic reiks ‘ruler’ < Proto-Germanic *rīk-;

Goth. reiki ‘rule, kingdom’, Old Norse ríki, Old English rīċe, Old Saxon rīki, Old High German rīhhi < PGmc. *rīkiją (ending reconstructable because the noun is a neuter ja-stem in all the daughters);

Goth. *reikeis (attested is weak gen. pl. reikjane) ‘exercising authority’, ON ríkr (stem ríkj-) ‘powerful’, OE rīċe ‘powerful, rich’, OS rīki ‘powerful’, OHG rīhhi ‘powerful, rich’ < PGmc. *rīkijaz ‘powerful’ (ending reconstructable because this is a ja-stem adjective in all the daughters).

The PGmc. *k of these forms is not surprising, because that is the expected outcome of PIE *ǵ (or velar *g, for that matter); and we expect *r to survive without change in Germanic.  But the vowel of the root doesn’t fit; inherited *ē should have remained *ē in PGmc. and in Gothic, becoming *ā in all the other daughters (with various further devel­opments, especially in OE).  The following examples establish that regular sound correspondence (note that the length mark is not written over Gothic long e and o because there are no corresponding short vowels):

PIE *gwḗn ‘woman’ (OIr. bé, Jasanoff 1989) >→ PGmc. *kwēniz ‘wife’ > Goth. qens, ON kván, OS quān, OE cwēn;

PIE *sēmi- ‘half’ (Greek ἡμι- /hę:mi-/, Lat. sēmi-) > PGmc. *sēmi- > OHG sāmi-, OS sām- (OE sam- was generalized from position before consonant clusters and disyllabic words, where the vowel was shortened by regular sound change, Luick 1921:187-8);

PIE *seh1- ‘sow’ (Lithuanian sė́ti, Old Church Slavonic sěti ‘to sow’; Lat. perfect sēvisse ‘to have sown’), *séh1mn̥ ‘seed’ (Lat. sēmen, OCS sĕmę, Lith. pl. sė́menys), collective *séh1mō >→ PGmc. *sēaną ‘to sow’, *sēmō̄ ‘seed’ (reflecting the PIE collective, Jasanoff 2002:35-8) > Goth. saian (with lowering of *ē before a vowel), ON sá, OE sāwan, OS sāian, OHG sāan, sāwen ‘to sow’, sāmo ‘seed’;

PIE *h2wḗh1- ~ *h2wéh1- ‘blow’ (of the wind; Skt. vā́ti, Homeric Gk. ἄησι /áę:si/ ‘(wind) blows’) >→ PGmc. *wēidi ‘(wind) blows’ > Goth. waiiþ, OE wǣweþ;

PIE *dhéh1ti- ~ *dhh1téy- ‘act of putting’ (Avestan zraz-dāti- ‘belief’, lit. ‘putting faith’; Vedic Skt. vásu-dhiti- ‘bestowal of goods’, Gk. θέσις /thésis/ ‘act of putting’) >→ *dheh1tí-s > PGmc. *dēdiz ‘deed’ > ON dáð, OS dād, OHG tāt, OE dǣd; Goth. missa-deþs ‘misdeed, sin’;

PIE *mḗh1n̥s- ~ *méh1n̥s- ‘moon, month’ (Vedic Skt. mā́s ‘moon, month’; Gk. μήν /mę́:n/, Lat. mēnsis, OIr. mí, mís-, all specialized as ‘month’) → *méh1nōs ~ *méh1nos- ~ *m̥h1n̥s-´ ~ (locative) *m̥h1nés(-i) (shift from an acrostatic to an amphikinetic accent paradigm; cf. Tocharian B meñe, Lith. mė́nuo, mė́nesis ‘month’, Latvian mẽness ‘moon, month’) >→ PGmc. *mēnō̄ ‘moon’ (n-stem),
*mēnōþ- ‘month’ > Goth. mena, ON máni (poetic), OS, OHG māno, OE mōna ‘moon’; Goth. menoþs, ON mánaðr, OHG mānōd, OE mōnaþ ‘month’.

(Other examples with clear PIE pedigrees involve further complications, e.g. because they occur in suffixal syllables or endings.)

So the PGmc. *rīk- forms must have been borrowed from some other IE language in which *ē became *ī by regular sound change, and the only plausible candidate is Celtic.  (For the record, the other IE languages in which *ē regularly became *ī are the Luvian subgroup, Lydian, and Armenian; the same change happened at least in word-final position in Palaic.  On the Anatolian languages see Melchert 1994:217, 263, 311-2, 367; on Armenian see e.g. Schmitt 1981.  Contact between Germanic and any of those languages seems very implausible.)

But note that while the *ī of the PGmc. forms matches the Celtic vowel perfectly, the following *k does not; it has clearly been affected by part of the Germanic complex of sound changes called “Grimm’s Law”, the part that shifted voiced stops to voiceless stops.  (Most of the original voiceless stops had already been shifted to fricatives, so there was only a very limited merger; see Ringe 2008:94-100 for many further examples of both changes and a description of the merger environment.)  In other words, Celtic *rīg- ‘king’ and *rīgiom ‘kingship’ were apparently borrowed into pre-PGmc. in their Celtic shapes, more or less, and then subsequently became *rīk- and *rīkiom by Grimm’s Law.  It seems much less likely that PGmc. *k (after Grimm’s Law had run its course) was judged the best representation of Celtic *g by Germanic speakers when the words were borrowed; though PGmc. *g (after Grimm’s Law) was a fricative in most positions, and its pre-Grimm’s Law ante­cedent was a breathy-voiced stop, the fact that it was voiced should have made it the best representation of Celtic *g at just about any time.  So we have a reconstructable relative chronology:

1) *ē > *ī in Celtic;
2) borrowing of ‘king’ and ‘kingdom’ from Celtic into pre-PGmc.;
3) voiced stops > voiceless in pre-PGmc.

(The adjective is a Germanic innovation which must have been created after (2), but still at a fairly early date, because adjectives in *-yo- ~ *-io- were no longer productive in PGmc.)  There are other Celtic loanwords in Germanic, recognizable for various reasons, but this is the only set that gives us an interesting relative chronology of changes.

This chronology is startling, because the change of *ē to *ī might not have occurred as early as Proto-Celtic; there seem to be some Hispano-Celtic exceptions in the first long inscription unearthed at Botorrita, and if that finding holds up, the sound change must have spread through an already diversified Celtic dialect continuum, presumably failing to reach northeastern Spain because that area was isolated by the Pyrenees.  (For an attempt to interpret the Botorrita inscription by a well-informed specialist see Eska 1989).  Yet Grimm’s Law was clearly not a late pre-PGmc. sound change:  of the forty-odd sound changes whose relative chronology is outlined in Ringe 2008:152, only five must have occurred before Grimm’s Law; about twenty others might have (because they are not on lines of inferred relative chronology below Grimm’s Law), but it is most unlikely that all of them are earlier.  Roughly the same number of sound changes must have intervened between Grimm’s Law and the PGmc. period.  It seems that much of the distinctive phonological development of PGmc. must have occurred fairly late in its prehistory.

A possible alternative is the following.  The above argument assumes that the Grimm’s Law changes were historically linked as a “chain shift” of stops; but what if they were actually three independent changes?  Then the relative chronology of Grimm’s Law, Verner’s Law, and related changes becomes somewhat different:

1) voiceless stops > voiceless fricatives unless an obstruent immediately precedes (GL1);
2) voiced stops > voiceless stops (GL 2; must follow 1, which it counterfeeds);
3) breathy-voiced stops > voiced fricatives (GL 3);
4) voiceless fricatives > voiced fricatives when not word-initial and not adjacent to an obstruent, and the last preceding syllable nucleus is unaccented (VL; must follow 1, which feeds it);
5) voiced fricatives > voiced stops immediately following nasals and in some other environments (must follow 3 and 4, which feed it, and 2, which it counterfeeds);
6) accent is shifted to the initial syllable of the word (must follow 4, since it destroys the environment for 4).

That gives us a lot more leeway chronologically, because the stops that developed by (5) underwent no further changes in the PGmc. period.

But there is a final piece of evidence which reinforces our initial chronological conclusion.  PGmc. *walhaz ‘foreigner’ (> OE wealh, OHG walah; pl. ON Valir ‘the French’) was clearly borrowed from the Celtic tribal name *Wolkā-, which appears in Caesar’s Latin as Volcae—and it has clearly been affected by the first and earliest part of Grimm’s Law!  In fact, there are no clear Celtic loanwords in PGmc. that can be shown to postdate Grimm’s Law.  There are plenty of pairs of possible loanwords in which PGmc. *b, *d, and *g correspond to Celtic voiced stops, but in virtually every case a preform with a breathy-voiced stop is either certain or possible (and for that reason we can’t determine whether most of these words are loanwords or common inheritances:  in both subfamilies breathy-voiced stops became voiced obstruents).  There is only one pair of words in which a PGmc. voiceless stop corresponds to a Celtic voiced stop, namely PGmc. *brōk- ‘leggings, breeches’ (> ON brók, OE brōc, OHG bruoh) = Celtic *brāk- (borrowed into Latin as pl. brācae)—and that is the one case for which Germanic rather than Celtic origin has been claimed, on the reasonable grounds that the inflection of the Germanic word is archaic (see e.g. de Vries 1960:71).

There is at least one other probable Celtic loan in Germanic that exhibits the Celtic sound change *ē > *ī, and it is interesting for a different set of reasons.  Consider the following words meaning ‘iron’:

Goth. eisarn, ON ísarn (poetic), járn, OE īsern, īsen, īren, OS, OHG īsarn < PGmc. *īsarną; the shorter ON and OE forms have undergone startling sound changes, but their descent from the PGmc. word is not doubtful;

OIr. ïarn, Gaulish (?) Īsarno- (in a place-name recorded in the early middle ages; see Feist 1939:131 with references) < Celtic *īsarnom.

The Celtic and Germanic words match perfectly; moreover, this is the only word for ‘iron’ shared by first-order subgroups of IE.  (By itself that doesn’t prove that iron was acquired relatively late by speakers of IE languages; but we know from archaeological evidence that it was, and the distribution of words for the metal is consistent with that fact.)

Maybe we can’t completely exclude the possibility that this is a common inheritance of Germanic and Celtic, but the cladistic tree is against it; the split between Celtic and Germanic (or their immediate parents) should have occurred well back in the 3rd millennium BCE at the latest, when no one in northern Europe had any iron.  Borrowing is overwhelmingly likely; borrowing from Celtic into Germanic is also overwhelmingly likely, both because the Celts were closer to sources of iron and because almost all the lexical borrowing between these two groups is from Celtic into Germanic, with very few counterexamples.

Moreover, if the word was originally Celtic, we can hazard an etymology (Cowgill 1986:68 fn. 10).  Celtic *īsarnom can reflect earlier *ēsarnom, by the sound change discussed above; the latter can reflect *ēsh2r̥-no-m, derived from PIE *ésh2r̥ ‘blood’ (Hittite ēsḫar, Skt. ásr̥k) by lengthening the root vowel (a derivational process called “vr̥ddhi”) and adding a well-known suffix.  As Warren Cowgill pointed out to me some thirty years ago, there are at least two good reasons why iron might be called ‘blood-metal’; the fact that it rusts is one of them.

Bibliography.

Cowgill, Warren.  1986.  “Einleitung.”  Cowgill, Warren, and Manfred Mayrhofer, Indogermanische Grammatik, Band I (Heidelberg:  Winter) 9-71.

Eska, Joseph.  1989.  Towards an interpretation of the Hispano-Celtic inscription of Botorrita. Innsbruck:  IBS.

Feist, Sigmund.  1939.  Vergleichendes Wörterbuch der gotischen Sprache. Leiden: Brill.

Jasanoff, Jay.  1989.  “Old Irish ‘woman’.”  Ériu 40:135-41.

—.  2002.  “The nom. sg. of Germanic n-stems.”  Wedel, Alfred, and Hans-Jörg Busch (edd.), Verba et litteræ:  explorations in Germanic languages and German literature (Newark, DE:  Linguatext) 31-46.

Luick, Karl.  1921.  Historische Grammatik der englischen Sprache. Leipzig: Tauchnitz.

Melchert, H. Craig.  1994.  Anatolian historical phonology. Amsterdam:  Rodopi.

Ringe, Don.  2008.  From Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic.  A linguistic history of English, volume 1. Revised ed.  Oxford:  OUP.

Schmitt, Rüdiger.  1981.  Grammatik des Klassisch-Armenischen. Innsbruck:  IBS.

Vries, Jan de.  1960.  Kelten und Germanen. Bern:  Francke.



28 Comments

  1. Mark P said,

    January 13, 2009 @ 11:28 am

    I appreciate this. It continues to be interesting, even to a rank amateur. It makes me wonder how far back this type of analysis can be pushed.

  2. Anonymous said,

    January 13, 2009 @ 12:03 pm

    Give Dr. Ringe a spot on Language Log. It needs more historical linguistics.

  3. Aelfric said,

    January 13, 2009 @ 12:40 pm

    I agree entirely with the earlier comments. I am also a rank amateur, yet am spellbound by these posts. Thanks to Dr. Ringe for his engaging analysis, and to Language Log for this and other wonderful discussions.

  4. Bill Walderman said,

    January 13, 2009 @ 1:12 pm

    I'd like to add my voice to those of the previous commenters expressing appreciation for this stimulating and thought-provoking series of postings by Dr. Ringe.

  5. language hat said,

    January 13, 2009 @ 3:27 pm

    Fascinating, and it's nice to see that great Indo-Europeanist Warren Cowgill cited. Keep it up!

  6. Nathan Myers said,

    January 13, 2009 @ 4:12 pm

    "Spellbound" is le mot juste.

  7. Daniel Ezra said,

    January 13, 2009 @ 4:43 pm

    >the sound change must have spread through an already diversified Celtic >dialect continuum, presumably failing to reach northeastern Spain because >that area was isolated by the Pyrenees.

    the discussion seems to assume that all sound changes progress by geographical diffusion.
    while many surely do, there is also internally-caused change, and this can lead to parallel innovation.

    the diffusionist paradigm has been dominant in dialectology since at least gilliéron and the ALF.
    but i believe the neo-grammarians thought in terms of parallel innovation, at least sometimes.

    what i'm saying is if you took a speech community and split it in two and sent one half to one desert island and the other half to another, you'd eventually observe divergence, certainly, but (maybe especially at first) you'd also observe parallel changes happening in the two places.

    this discussion has either said outright, or verged on saying, that if two daughter languages share an innovation, they must have been at least somewhat in contact at the time when that innovation occurred.

    i believe that is not necessarily true, and recognizing this might have some consequences for the arguments being made.

  8. Mark Liberman said,

    January 13, 2009 @ 4:58 pm

    Daniel Ezra: this discussion has either said outright, or verged on saying, that if two daughter languages share an innovation, they must have been at least somewhat in contact at the time when that innovation occurred.

    In his posts, Don has more than once referred to things like "'natural', easily repeat­able changes which could have occurred independently". In my experience of work by good historical linguists, this possibility is always among the alternative explanations that are considered. I have no idea how plausible this is in the particular Celtic case under discussion; but I can certainly testify that Don routinely considers the hypothesis of parallel development, and has often decided on that explanation as the best account of a particular array of facts, or accepted someone else's theory to that effect.

  9. Daniel Ezra said,

    January 13, 2009 @ 5:17 pm

    the following article clarifies some of what i was just trying to say:
    review of "stammbaumtheorie, wellentheorie, entfaltungstheorie etc." in language 35(2): 315-321.

    basically it's about the limits of applicability of the wave theory, and what kinds of meaningful alternatives there might be to it – in particular, the article discusses Germanic umlaut and the second consonant shift as a case study of these issues.

    i/j-umlaut is a change that affected various dialects very similarly, but it cannot plausibly be attributed to contact between them – at least according to otto hoefler, the author of the reviewed texts.

    george lane, the author of the review, shows how hoefler gets into trouble in terms of actually coming up with explanations for these 'vertical' changes. however, the more important point as lane sees it is hoefler's "frontal attack on the use of the wave theory where reason tells us it could not possibly have applied".

    much of the recent discussion here has been about relative chronology of sound changes vis-a-vis the break-up of parent languages into daughter languages. it may not make the chronologist's job any easier to acknowledge that a tendency towards a certain change may already exist in a parent language but only later manifest itself in many or all of the daughter languages.

    however, if this kind of thing routinely happens – and i believe it does – then it can't be ignored by acting like all change is 'horizontal'.

  10. Daniel Ezra said,

    January 13, 2009 @ 5:23 pm

    the possibility of natural, easily repeatable changes that happen independently is, of course, to be distinguished from what i'm mainly talking about, which is the idea that varieties do not only inherit completed changes (which are no longer changes at all) but also ongoing changes and more interestingly even predispositions to change in certain particular directions.

    a very good example of this is the northern cities shift in the united states. if we abandon the idea that there are processes of contact across this enormous dialect area which are responsible for the parallel changes – if we recognize that several separate cities are independently progressing in very similar directions with respect to a fair number of vowels – then we have a kind of mystery on our hands. i think this particular type of mystery is under-acknowledged.

  11. Daniel Ezra said,

    January 13, 2009 @ 5:30 pm

    this all may be related to labov's discussion of "incrementation" vs. "diffusion". both certainly happen. diffusion may be easier to understand. but that does not absolve us from understanding incrementation: how children know to keep sound change going in the direction it's going. the same answers, whatever they are, may explain why dialects across a wide area undergo the same changes, when it's not because of contact (diffusion) and its not a case of fortuitous parallel natural innovation. or maybe it is the latter, but it's a matter of what changes become natural given what state of the system… sorry for ranting

  12. Mark Liberman said,

    January 13, 2009 @ 5:48 pm

    Daniel Ezra: the possibility of natural, easily repeatable changes that happen independently is, of course, to be distinguished from what i'm mainly talking about, which is the idea that varieties do not only inherit completed changes (which are no longer changes at all) but also ongoing changes and more interestingly even predispositions to change in certain particular directions.

    I'm not sure that it's necessary to reify such "predispositions".

    It's plausible that the linguistic system of a speech community has a limited amount of "velocity" or "momentum", rather than just a static position in the infinite space of possible languages. You could use this metaphor to think about the effect of variational patterns associated with change in progress. But surely the null hypothesis about parallel developments in daughter languages, at least after any significant time of separation, would be that an apparent predisposition to change is created by static distributional facts, variable or not (like consonant-vowel sequences likely to cause palatalization, or the type of stress-and-vowel-reduction-system likely to lead to syncope); and that the subsequent history depends on the stochastic evolution of these "meme pools" (in the context of shared features of the environment, like a shared contact situation).

    Do you have in mind examples that seem to require postulating a "predisposition" that goes beyond this?

  13. Daniel Ezra said,

    January 13, 2009 @ 6:20 pm

    i'm certainly not trying to say there's anything mystical or non-physical about the kind of determinism i'm suggesting. and no, i don't have too much evidence, although i think the northern cities shift is good enough for now: the vowels of e.g. buffalo and chicago are virtually identical, and radically shifted from previous norms (or from the POV of other dialects), contact is not a good explanation, and i don't think it can all be called a natural set of changes.

    i really agree with what you say ("It's plausible that the linguistic system of a speech community has a limited amount of "velocity" or "momentum", rather than just a static position in the infinite space of possible languages.") and am pointing out that I don't believe (i could be wrong) that much phonological theory has been devoted to capturing this dynamic aspect of language systems.

    beyond that, i guess i'm suggesting a shift in what people think of as the null hypothesis. don ringe clearly believes that if a change occurs in the iberian peninsula then you first and foremost think of it as having diffused across that peninsula, starting somewhere on it or off it. diffusion is the null hypothesis, some kind of incrementation or internal change is treated as an alternative hypothesis.

    but in labovian sociolinguistics it's reversed. "transmission"/"incrementation" is treated as the more important type/cause of change, and "diffusion" is secondary. to oversimplify this is because it is adults who largely participate in diffusion and contact and their ability to be affected by that contact is rather limited. meanwhile children who have never travelled anywhere continue to advance changes past the point of the next oldest cohort.

    if we apply the uniformitarian principle, then children's internal incrementation was always just as primary as it is in communities studied in detail today. and diffusion just as secondary.

    but how often do you hear people discuss incrementation and how in the world that happens, compared to how often you hear stories about contact and diffusion?

    if as don himself wrote, celtic tribes of similar dialect spread across a large area of europe, and if a change later occurred in the different parts of that celtic area, my null hypothesis is to say that is a (parallel) internal development, not a result of diffusion.

    or maybe internal change shouldn't be the null hypothesis, but i think it should at least be given a little more shrift than what i'm seeing.

    even though diffusion accounts have at least a superficially sensible, plausible mechanism whereas internal-change accounts have a (hitherto largely) unknown mechanism.

    and even though there are many types of important changes — e.g. lexical borrowing — where diffusion is the only possible explanation for change.

  14. D Jagannathan said,

    January 13, 2009 @ 7:50 pm

    i'm certainly not trying to say there's anything mystical or non-physical about the kind of determinism i'm suggesting. and no, i don't have too much evidence, although i think the northern cities shift is good enough for now: the vowels of e.g. buffalo and chicago are virtually identical, and radically shifted from previous norms (or from the POV of other dialects), contact is not a good explanation, and i don't think it can all be called a natural set of changes.

    Why isn't contact a good explanation? The initial* raising and breaking of [æ] to [ɛə ~ ɪə] creates an asymmetry in the vowel system that is 'patched up' by the chain shift. While Buffalo and Chicago may be similar, the shift shows some nice isoglosses that reveal core and periphery areas (data for the map linked from Labov, William, Sharon Ash & Charles Boberg (2006), The Atlas of North American English, Mouton-de Gruyter). Presumably there are both 'natural' parts of the shift where the vowel space is realigning in predictable ways (this cuts sharply against Daniel Ezra's point, I think) and reinforcing parts due to continued contact across the region (including internal migration, media, etc.). The result is predictably 'messy'.

    * I think I'm right in remembering that this is a drag shift.

    beyond that, i guess i'm suggesting a shift in what people think of as the null hypothesis. don ringe clearly believes that if a change occurs in the iberian peninsula then you first and foremost think of it as having diffused across that peninsula, starting somewhere on it or off it. diffusion is the null hypothesis, some kind of incrementation or internal change is treated as an alternative hypothesis.

    What I gather from Professor Ringe's discussion is that the shift from *ē to *ī in Proto-Celtic is well-attested across all the daughter groups, with the possible exception of Hispano-Celtic, which was spoken in an isolated area across the Pyrenees. Perhaps the change occurred before the family as a whole diversified geographically, but after the group that went on to speak Hispano-Celtic left the Celtic Urheimat.

  15. gd said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 9:59 am

    The main ore of iron is hematite, aka blood ore.

  16. Marconatrix said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 5:03 pm

    I have a problem with the "Spanish Celts" who didn't shift /e:/ > /i:/.

    The characteristics that define the Celtic languages are inter alia :
    (1) IE /p/ > null;
    (2) IE /e:/ > /i:/;
    (3) IE /o:/ > /a:/ ( > /u:/ in finals);
    (4) IE /g_w/ > /b/;
    (5) merger of the voiced aspirates (whatever they really were!) with the plain voiced series;
    (6) IE /s/ > /h/ intervocally etc.
    (7) IE /kt/ > /xt/;
    (8) the various developments of the syllablic consonants

    Of these, probably only 1-3 are really distinctive. 4 & 6 are shared with Greek at least, 7 is probably only allophonic, and I wouldn't class 5 & 8 as what a biologist would call "good characters", i.e. they are changes very likely to happen in separate lineages.

    My question therefore is, if you can't tick all the boxes, on what basis can you claim that this language was "Celtic", as opposed to some other known or unknown branch of IE?

    This is a serious question btw. I've seen transcripts of some "Celtiberian" inscriptions and I can't see anything that immediately shouts "Celtic", the way even in Gaulish, many roots are identifiable.

  17. David Marjanović said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 8:23 pm

    It seems that much of the distinctive phonological development of PGmc. must have occurred fairly late in its prehistory.

    This fits other evidence: the tribe after which the modern-day "state" of Hessen in Germany is named was called Chatti by the Romans. This may have been meant to reflect a pronunciation that started with [kʰ] or maybe [x], but certainly not [h], even though GL1 is (off the top of my head) the only source for [h] in German*.

    * Never mind the Innviertel dialect in western Upper Austria, which has turned initial [s] into [h].

  18. David Marjanović said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 8:24 pm

    My question therefore is, if you can't tick all the boxes, on what basis can you claim that this language was "Celtic", as opposed to some other known or unknown branch of IE?

    The Principle of Parsimony. Also known as Ockham's Razor War Axe.

  19. David Marjanović said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 8:25 pm

    Treason! The preview is dishonest — it accepts HTML tags that get removed when I click "submit". "Razor" was supposed to be stricken through.

  20. Marconatrix said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 9:20 pm

    I don't see how that applies in this case. Anyway what I was really asking for were the criteria used to identify these outlying languages as "Celtic" rather than say "Italic" or "Branch X".

    The other thing I'm finding difficult to figure out, is that if the IE peoples fanned out across Europe relatively recently and relatively quickly (horse warriors rather than agriculturists plodding along behind their cows), then why do we have distinct IE sub-groups, Celtic, Germanic, Slavic etc. Why isn't there just a single gradation of features from one edge of the fan to the other?

  21. Bryn LaFollette said,

    January 15, 2009 @ 4:54 pm

    Marconatrix:

    The general answer (AFAIK) is timing of migration by different subgroups and geographical seperation. There are some pretty well-developed timelines of when each group seperated from the main stock and then started migrating off to the locations we know them from historically and in modern times. They didn't all fan out across Europe at the same time. The Celtic branch, for example, is considered to have spread across much of Northern Europe first, and then the Germanic groups followed on their tails, with Slavic groups following them. After all, 5000+ years is plenty of time for one group to spread out and differentiate from its sibling branches before migration then brings them back into contact.

  22. David Marjanović said,

    January 15, 2009 @ 6:30 pm

    My question therefore is, if you can't tick all the boxes, on what basis can you claim that this language was "Celtic", as opposed to some other known or unknown branch of IE?

    If it shares more innovations with Celtic than with anything else, it's Celtic sensu latissimo, even though it isn't Celtic sensu strictissimo.

    Of course, if we know in what order those innovations happened and if it possesses a random selection of them rather than the first few and not the last few, things get more complicated, and explanations have to be sought in convergence or contact.

  23. Marconatrix said,

    January 16, 2009 @ 10:43 pm

    I agree, What I initially asked was, why is this language classified as Celtic, i.e. which innovations does it share, which implies a refinement of the term "Celtic". Otherwise we've got a sister group and we need a new term for the whole lot together.

    There is also potentialy a grade vs clade problem here, though I don't think historical linguists have really considered that yet. I.e. the common ancestor of a group, the root of that clade, may have been quite atypical compared with it's later descendants.

  24. Charlemagne vs. Kraljevina « Xur-Bel-Gon said,

    January 17, 2009 @ 8:48 pm

    [...] Don Ringe [...]

  25. A New Young (Noble-Nibelung) King « Xur-Bel-Gon said,

    January 22, 2009 @ 3:51 am

    [...] Don Ringe PDF version (132 kb) [...]

  26. Dušan Vukotić said,

    January 22, 2009 @ 4:51 am

    I didn't post the above "Charlemagne" and I was surprised seeing that someone had done it …

    I hope I wouldn't bother you much if I directed you to a new "essay", that was inspired by the above Don Ringe's article,
    A new young (noble-nibelung) king
    Regards,DV

  27. Stinky24 said,

    October 22, 2009 @ 10:04 pm

    Organic chemistry, indeed, in investigating more and more complicated molecules, has come very much nearer to that 'aperiodic crystal' which, in my opinion, is the material carrier of life. ,

  28. A New Young (Noble-Nibelung) King | Xurbelanum said,

    January 5, 2010 @ 12:55 pm

    [...] Don Ringe pdf version (243 kb) [...]

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