The hangŭl letter arae a (ㆍ) appears almost exclusively after ts and s in the transcription of Old Ryukyuan (OR) in 海東諸國紀 Haedong chegukki (1471). This extremely skewed distribution implies that the OR segment represented by arae a was 'sibilant-friendly': e.g., it might have been a syllabic fricative [z̩] like the 'vowel' that only appears after Mandarin alveolar sibilants: zi [tsz̩], ci [tshz̩], si [sz̩]. Note that arae a also appears in the premodern Sino-Korean readings of characters now pronounced zi, ci, si in Mandarin: e.g.,

Gloss Sinograph Premodern Sino-Korean Modern Sino-Korean Mandarin
child ts + arae a cha zi [tsz̩]
this tsh + arae a chha ci [tshz̩]
four s + arae a sa si [sz̩]

One cannot conclude that arae a in 15th century Korean was syllabic [z̩] since it frequently could also appear after nonsibilants: e.g., Middle Korean m + arae a  + r 'horse' which was probably not [mz̩r].

Moreover, arae a appears in borrowings of Chinese morphemes that never had syllabic [z̩]: e.g., Middle Chinese 每 *məjʔ 'every' corresponds to Middle Korean m + arae a + i which could not have been [mz̩jʔ].

Therefore the Middle Korean vowel written as arae a must have

1. sounded like an OR segment

- occurring only after sibilants (see below for exceptions)

- that later developed into Okinawan -i

2. sounded like the Chinese segment corresponding to later Mandarin [z̩]

3. been easily pronounceable after and even before nonsibilants in a single syllable - I have yet to see a language with syllables like [mz̩r].

Kim-Renaud's proposed value of *o for arae a fails criteria 1 and 2. There is no reason for an *o-like vowel to appear only after sibilants. It is unlikely that an *o-like vowel would develop into -i (but cf. Ukrainian in my next post). Finally, there is no evidence for an *o-like vowel in 子此四 at any time during the history of Chinese.

I have long favored an unrounded for arae a which also fails criteria 1 and 2 for the same reasons.

Whatever arae a was, it might have sounded like the OR vowel in these two words without sibilants:

'older sister', transcribed as ar + arae a + i (cf. standard Jpn ane 'id.')

'white wine', transcribed as riŋk + arae a + na sakɯi (cf. standard Jpn nigori 'muddiness', sake 'wine'; Okinawan mingwi 'muddiness' [with m-!], saki 'wine')

Standard Japanese -e may come from *-ai, and the -i transcription for 'older sister' may imply a proto-Japonic *anai.

The Old Japanese root for 'turbid' was *niŋgər-. Arae a in the transcription riŋk + arae a + na of its PR cognate corresponds to OJ and may represent a reduction of a PR *o that developed from schwa:

Proto-Japonic *miŋgər-
> Old Japanese *niŋgər- > standard Jpn nigor-
> Proto-Ryukyuan *miŋgor- ~ *niŋgor-

> Old Ryukyuan *niŋgVr- (transcribed as riŋk + arae a + na)

> earlier Okinawan *miŋgor-i > modern Okinawan mingwi

(not directly descended from the OR form with *n-)
2.27.00:45: The Haedong chegukki transcription of the OR word for 'morning' implies that the OR vowel written as arae a was somehow minimal:

Transcription: stomɯiti (with no vowel between s and t)

cf. Okinawan sutumiti, shitimiti, hitimiti and archaic mainland Japanese tsutomete < Early Middle Japanese tutomete

Other instances of OR syllables corresponding to Okinawan sibilant-i syllables and standard Japanese sibilant-u syllables were transcribed as sibilant + arae a in Haedong chegukki: e.g.,

Gloss OR transcription Okinawan Standard Japanese
when itts + arae a ichi itsu
first month syooŋkwats + arae a
syaoŋkwats + arae a
soogwachi shougatsu
be at ease; flat mas + arae a  + ŋko masshiigu massugu 'straight'
summer natts + arae a nachi natsu
vinegar s + arae a + u shii su
ink slab s + arae a + ts + arae a + ri shijiri suzuri
ink s + arae a + mi shimi sumi
sheep pits + arae a + tsya hichiji hitsuji
dragon tats + arae a tachi tatsu

The transcriber could have written 'morning' as s + arae a + tomɯiti, but chose to write no vowel between s and t. (st- was a permissible cluster in Middle Korean.) I conclude that sibilant + arae a sounded similar to sibilant + zero.

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