Turkic vocalism revisited

Previously I wrote about the system of Proto-Turkic vowels as consisting of 8 qualities spanned by features of height, frontness and rounding with three additional phonemes sometimes suggested: /ia/, /e/ and /*ë/.


The first phoneme is reflected identically to *a, except it caused palatalization in Chuvash, so that we have[1]:

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Mongolic ablative

The form of the ablative case suffix in Mongolic is a well isogloss separating all modern Mongolic varieties and all Middle Mongol sources save Muqaddimat alAdab. Middle Mongol reflects *-(a-)ča, while modern languages (and MA) show *-(a-)sa[1].  Thus, irregular deaffrication of *č in this suffix is taken to be a Common Mongolic innovation.

There are no external comparisons that could hint to a further etymology of the ablative suffix. Khitan has an unrelated ablative in <e(n)d.ii>, homographical with dative+genitive. Sometimes a comparison with the Turkic equative (likely an original prolative) *-ča is made, but the semantics are off. Poppe also claims cognacy to Manchu či, but Jurchen data (Kiyose 309) shows that the original form was ti and the similarity probably fortuitous.

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Turkic initials

While all Turkic languages show distinction between voiceless and voiced stops [1] word-internally, only Oghuz languages have it initially[2], and only between k/g in front vowel words and t/d .

Most reconstructions take this distinction to have been phonemic in Proto-Turkic, but Doerfer makes the case in Ein altosmanisches Lautgesetz im Kurdischen that we’re dealing with a secondary voicing in Oghuz.

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Mongolic *gI

For some time now, I’ve been considering the possibility that Proto-Mongolic *ï derives, at least partly, from an earlier *ia diphthong. This would be in line with both Turkic and Tungusic possessing such a phoneme and with their correspondences such as CT *sarïg ‘yellow’ ~ Chuvash šur ‘white’ ~ PM *sïra ‘yellow’ or  CT *taš ~ Chuvash čul ~ PM *čïlaxun ‘stone’ (but Tungusic *ǯola). [1]

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Mongolic unstable *-n

Unstable n refers to the phenomenon found in several Mongolic languages (Classical Mongol, Khalkha, Buryat, Mongghul…) of certain stems alternating final -n with zero across their declensional paradigm. For those desiring more detail than given here, this paper covers the Khalkha situation, and for those unfamiliar with the Mongolian declension Poppe’s grammar may be consulted.

The mainstream view is that the phenomenon is morphological in nature and dates to Proto-Mongolic (The Mongolic Languages, The Phonology of Mongolian, Mongolic Phonology and the Qinghai-Gansu Languages, …), however I would like to defend a different position.

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