Yat

dihydrogen monoxide

Senior Member
Slovene, Serbo-Croat
Why did Proto-slavic yat have so many different outcomes in daughter Slavic languages? What is usually the case, one proto-vowel has one outcome in daughter languages. Yet we see in Czech
there are two possible outcomes. In BCS there are three possible outcomes and so on...
How would yat be presented in IPA?
 
  • Zec

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    This is largely speculative, but I'll give it a shot.

    Eventually most Slavic languages settled on a triangular five-vowel system consisting of i, e, a, o and u, with some preserving a sixth vowel, y, which sits neatly in the triangle between i and u, or ə, which also sits neatly between e and o.

    Yat doesn't quite fit into the triangle. It would have to come either between i and e (As in Czech, Slovak, Sorbian and Western South Slavic, that would be /e/) or between e and a (As in Polish and Eastern South Slavic, that would be /æ/). This is based on the vowels it merged with, and I ashamedly admit that I have no idea what it's pronunciation would have been in East Slavic. Maybe also between i and e, considering it's fate in Ukranian?

    So, there's three solutions on how to accommodate yat into the vowel triangle: 1. Turn it into a vowel rectangle, with closed i and u, mid e and o, and open æ and a. This is the default solution for modern Kajkavian dialects, which actually preserve yat as a separate vowel, closed /e/. 2. Turn it into a bigger triangle by innovating a distinction of open /ɔ / and closed /o/ to correspond to open /ɛ/ and closed /e/, so that there's closed i and u, closed-mid e and o, open-mid ɛ and ɔ and an open a. This is the solution for Slovene and some modern Kajkavian dialects, and even those which today have a six-vowel rectangle probably used to have a seven-vowel triangle. 3. Get rid of yat. This happened in most other languages.

    It's also not quite true that yat is the only vowel which has many reflexes. In Czech, the front nasal vowel *ę has even more reflexes: sometimes it becomes a, sometimes it becomes... ironically, yat! Which then becomes i or e. So 5 is pět, but 5th is pátý. Similarly, in Čakavian it becomes e or a. And in Slovak the yers become either e, a or o without anyone being completely sure under what conditions.

    As for what yat's IPA value would be, that's even more speculative, since it's outcomes in different languages suggest two possibilities: either it was a closed /e/ between i and e , either it was an open /æ/ between e and a. It might have also been a diphthong, since it often becomes one in daughter languages. Which one of these is older? It's difficult to say, and I've read on this board ages ago that it might have been both for a time, depending on it's origin... Apparently there's some loanwords in Finnish which suggest /æ/ (määra from *měra), and considering that in some dialects of American English /æ/ has become /eə/ while skipping /ɛ/, the same may have happened in Slavic. So, but remember this is just speculation, I'm leaning for /æː/, which then becomes a diphtong /æa/ which then in some areas becomes more closed /eə/, which then becomes the varied reflexes in Western South Slavic and Czech.
     

    dihydrogen monoxide

    Senior Member
    Slovene, Serbo-Croat
    There's something else bugging me about yat. What actually is the difference between yat 1 and 2. And this might strike me as weird.
    But how can a vowel plus a glottal stop produce a diphtong. That would be like saying spiritus asper in Ancient Greek plus vowel of any kind will produce a long vowel?
     

    Zec

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    Well, yat 1 descends from original long *ē, while yat 2 descends from original *ai. Because of their different origins they behave differently when it comes to some phonological rules (yat 1 causes the 1st palatalisation and then becomes *a (*krik-ěti > *kričati), yat 2 causes the 2nd palatalisation and remains yat (*rǫk-ě > *rǫcě), but eventually they ended up being pronounced exactly the same and the difference in behavior probably comes from the different chronology of sound changes. The suggestion about yat's pronunciation that I briefly mentioned was that yat 1 was originally open, and yat 2 originally closed, and then they merged in some languages to the open and in some languages to the closed sound.

    As for sound changes, given enough time anything can become anything and what you mentioned about yat is no big deal. For example, let's consider Proto-Germanic diphtong *ai, in the word *baitaz "boat". First, up to Old English, it became a monophthong ā - this is similar to what happens to /ai/ in Southern USA English, so attested. So, *baitaz became bāt. Then, up to Middle English, ā became backed, rounded and raised to /ɔː/, for which the spelling oa was eventually invented - this is an extremely common change and I know at least a dozen language where it happened. So, bāt became /bɔːt/. Then, up to Early Modern English, /ɔː/ became raised again to /oː/ - this is also an extremely common change. So, /bɔːt/ became /boːt/. Then eventually this vowel became a diphtong, at first very narrow like in most America English, in some places a rising dipthong and i some places a falling dipthong. Again, and extremely common change. So, /boːt/ became /boʊt/ or /bʊot/. And then this dipthong became a little wider and we got Jamaican Patois /buat/ from Proto-Germanic *baitaz...

    And if that's not enough, we got French /pu/ from Latin peduculum.
     

    dihydrogen monoxide

    Senior Member
    Slovene, Serbo-Croat
    In PIE h1 (probably a glottal stop) produces a long vowel. That long vowel becomes yat in Proto-Slavic. Is there any other language that has a sound change where a glottal stop prolongs a vowel which in turn can become a diphtong.
    Wouldn't the a in *ai be *eh2? I imagine the only way eh1 becomes long is through compulsory lengthening. I don't know but to me it's a weird sound change from eh1 to long e. But long e
    and what it became in daughter Slavic languages, that's not that big of a mystery.
     

    Zec

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    Actually, the value of PIE laryngeals isn't know with much certainty. However, compensatory (not compulsory) lengthening can happen whenever some segment (consonant or another vowel) is lost after a vowel, and *eh1 > *ē is not weird at all. As for where *ai comes from, due to the earlier (probably already Balto-Slavic) merger of *a and *o, it can also arise from PIE *oy. One needs to be careful not to confuse different chronological stages.

    And compensatory lengthening can sometimes produce unusual results too. For example, in this paper it seems than in the Samothraki dialect of Greek r is lost and the following vowel is lengthened!
     
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