Historical phonology of Old Indo -Aryan consonants

Masato Kobayashi, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation presents a feature-based description of the phonological developments of Proto-Indo-European consonants into Old Indo-Aryan. Despite the apparent conservatism of its consonant phonology, Old Indo-Aryan made the following innovations which are not commonly found in other Indo-European languages: (i) The occlusive constriction of clustered non-continuants are not interrupted at a syllable boundary. Elimination of Proto-Indo-European *s between dental stops and the lack of geminated /r/ follow from this restriction. The gemination rules described by native grammarians suggest that the new preference for identical stricture across a syllable boundary overrides the original tendency to avoid overlong rimes. (ii) The deocclusion of voiced aspirates into /h/ shows that laryngeal features in Old Indo-Aryan appear in the surface representation with a higher priority than oral features. (iii) The Indo-Iranian rule of left-to-right spreading of laryngeal features (Bartholomae's Law) implies that the feature [spread glottis] is marked. /s/, which is prespecified for [spread glottis] and [[special characters omitted]voiced] in Old Indo-Aryan, and aspiration, can occur only when followed by a sonorant. Sibilants are licensed by a following sequence of a voiceless stop and a sonorant as well. Exclusion of a cluster initial /s/ from reduplication as in /ti-sthá-/ is due to its status as an appendage of a syllable. (iv) The development of Proto-Indo-European stray laryngeals into /i/ suggests that a high unrounded vowel is unmarked in Old Indo-Aryan. (v) The shift from dorsal to coronal obstruents, the introduction of retroflexion, and the alternation of palatal and retroflex obstruents, show that much of the contrast in place features in Proto-Indo-European is replaced by the shape of the front of the tongue in Old Indo-Aryan. Some of these peculiarities of Old Indo-Aryan are shared by Dravidian, which allows relatively long strings in the syllable rime, uses high vowels for epenthesis, makes three-way phonemic contrast in coronal configuration, and lacks fricatives, aspiration and geminated rhotics.

Subject Area

Linguistics|Ancient languages

Recommended Citation

Kobayashi, Masato, "Historical phonology of Old Indo -Aryan consonants" (2000). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9989612.