Sunday, September 18, 2011

Consonant ablaut (1912 § 32)

Consonant ablaut is a variation between glottalized and non-glottalized (non-aspirated) stops.  Sapir notes three common cases:

1.  In aorist vs. stem forms of verbs, when the initial consonant of the aorist form is glottalized, it is not glottalized in the non-aorist form.  We've already seen this with t'omom-, "to kill (aorist)", vs. doom-.

2.  In aorist vs. stem forms of verbs, when the medial consonant of the aorist form is glottalized, it is not glottalized in the non-aorist form.  I previously thought that might just have been a case of an impermissible consonant cluster.  We previously saw this with mats'ag- vs masg-, "to put".

3.  In aorist vs. stem forms of verbs where the non-aorist form has a glottalized final consonant, which is not glottalized in the aorist form.  Sapir gives to examples which are not apparently triliteral roots:

"drown"   stem: nuut'-, aorist nuud-

"spread"   stem: wiik'-, aorist wiig-

As with vowel ablaut, there are also cases where consonant ablaut is not connected with a regular rule, but I don't understand Sapir's examples.  One of them is:

somod-, "boil";  ts'umuumta- "boil"

In this case, the second form looks like what Sapir elsewhere calls the aorist frequentative with some kind of -ta suffix.  My initial guess from somod- would be that it is an aorist form, since otherwise I would have expected somd-.  I suppose that is where the mystery lies:  why does the aorist frequentative differ from the aorist by having both raised vowels and a glottalized initial.

One possible explanation could be that the aorist form somod- is a back-formation from non-aorist *somd-...but we would need some more evidence before we could know for sure.

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