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buber.net > Basque > Euskara > Larry > Note 27: Vowel Loss
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Note 27: Vowel Loss

by Larry Trask

Larry Trask, a world expert on Basque linguistics and the history of the Basque language, passed away on March 28, 2004. Larry contributed extensively to several online communities, including Basque-L and the Indoeuropean list. This collection of his postings is dedicated in his memory.

To learn about Larry, see this article.

The rules about vowel loss in word-formation that I mentioned last time interact with some further rules, mainly the following.

If, in word-formation, the first element comes to end in a plosive consonant (/p t k b d g/), then that plosive is changed to /t/.

This process is often triggered by one of the vowel-loss rules. In practice, /p b/ never succeed in occurring at the end of the first element. But the others may:

<ogi> 'bread' --> *<og-> --> <ot->

  For example, <ogi> + <zara> 'basket' --> <otzara> 'bread-basket'

<begi> 'eye' -->*<beg-> --> <bet->

  For example, <begi> + <ile> 'hair' --> <betile> 'eyelash'
  And <begi> + <sein> 'child' --> <betsein> 'pupil of the eye'

<erdi> 'half', 'middle' --> *<erd-> --> <ert->

  For example, <erdi> + <-ain> suffix --> <ertain> 'medium'

Now, if, in this circumstance, the second element also begins with a plosive, then further things happen:

The /t/ resulting from the rule above changes /b d g/ to /p t k/, and then the /t/ disappears.


  <ogi> + <-gin> 'maker' --> *<og-gin> --> *<ot-gin> --> *<ot-kin>
    --> <okin> 'baker'

  <begi> + <gain> 'top' --> *<beg-gain> --> *<bet-gain> --> *<bet-kain>
    --> <bekain> 'eyebrow'

  <begi> + <buru> 'head' -->*<beg-buru> --> *<bet-buru> --> *<bet-puru>
    --> <bepuru> 'eyebrow'

  <bat> 'one' + <-kar> suffix --> *<bat-kar> --> <bakar> 'sole, lone'

  <errege> 'king' + <bide> 'road' --> *<erreg-bide> --> <erret-bide>
    --> *<erret-pide> --> <errepide> 'highway'

In this last case, the intermediate form <erret bide> is actually recorded in the Fuero General of Navarra. In most other cases, the intermediate forms are not recorded.

Note also cases like <bat-batean> --> <bapatean> 'suddenly', illustrating the same process.

Larry Trask
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH


Tel: (01273)-678693 (from UK); +44-1273-678693 (from abroad)
Fax: (01273)-671320 (from UK); +44-1273-671320 (from abroad)

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