188.8.131.52:29: UKRAINIAN O > IA month ago, I wrote that the sound change
Old Ryukyuan o > Okinawan i
implied by a Kim-Renaud-style interpretation of Old Ryukyuan transcriptions in hangul was "bizarre". I then wrote,
Ukrainian did undergo such a change, but I don't understand it. I wrote a post about this shift in Ukrainian, but I didn't finish it and I can't find it. I'll upload it if I find it.
I never did find it, probably because I never wrote it. Maybe that was for the best, because this post is better than whatever I would have written. My intended post would have included this passage from Shevelov (1993: 950) explaining the o > i shift in Ukrainian:
[T]he most peculiar development in Ukrainian vocalism, one which is unique among the Slavonic languages as spoken nowadays, was the evolution of o and e in the position before a lost weak jer. For o in that position the following stages may be uncovered: o > ô (that is, close [o], since, at the latest, the thirteenth-fourteenth centuries; in some texts denoted by the Greek letter omega, ω) > u (attested since the fourteenth century) > ü (attested since 1600, spelled ю) > i (attested since 1653): kotъ > kωt > kut > küt (spelled кют/kjut) >кіт/kit 'cat'.
This passage has bothered me ever since I first saw it two or so
years ago because I thought it would lead to an impossible merger-split
oC + jer > uC > iC
uC + jer > uC > uC (not iC!)
How would Ukrainian speakers remember which uC came from oC and which uC were original? Perhaps they could have used the genitive singulars which are still distinct:
котъ > кіт (cf. Russian кот) 'cat'
кусъ > кус (cf. Russian кус) 'piece'
кота 'of a cat' (not кітa!)
куса 'of a piece'
Some derivatives of 'cat' also retain o: e.g., котик 'kitten'.
But I think there is a better explanation. I thank Xun Gong for reminding me that orthography is not phonology. That insight led me to propose the following scenario:
When stage 4 /ɪ/ merged with /i/, it left a gap that was filled by stage 4 /ɨ/. Hence there was a pull chain:
Stage 1: /i ô ɨ u/ (no /ɪ/), spelled <і ѡ и у>? (<ѡ> is the Cyrillic omega.)
Stage 2: /i ʊ ɨ u/ (still no /ɪ/), spelled <і у и у>?
At this point, <у> represented both /ʊ/ and /u/.
Stage 3: /i ʏ ɨ u/ (still no /ɪ/), spelled <і ю и у>?
At this point, <ю> represented both /ʏ/ and /ju/.
Stage 4: /i ɪ ɨ u/, spelled <і і и у>?
At this point, <і> represented both /i/ and /ɪ/.
Stage 5: /i i ɪ u/, spelled <і і и у>
/ɨ/ > /ɪ/ > /i/
resulting in a vowel system without ɨ (cf. Russian and Belarusian which have <ы> [ɨ]).