In part 2, I reinterpreted the Psara evidence for Proto-Japonic *b- as presented in Vovin (2010: 37-38) as evidence for PJ *wu.

Vovin (2010: 38-40) also found mainland evidence for PJ *b- in the cities of 氷見 Himi and 魚津 Uozu which are on opposite sides of Toyama Bay. Here are the correspondences between Shimao (a town in Himi) and Tokyo based on data that Vovin found in Kawamoto (1973). V represents any vowel other than a.

Vovin-style Proto-Japonic? Shimao Tokyo
*ba ba-, -wa- wa-, -wa-
*Npa ba-, -ba-
*bV V V
*NpV bV bV

(PJ forms are my guesses based on my understanding of Vovin 2010.)

Uozu has the same pattern as Shimao.

Vovin (2010: 39) wrote,

Kawamoto suggests that initial /w-/ underwent a fortition to /b-/ (1973: 75) [in Himi and Uozu]. Structurally, this would be reasonable, but the geographic distribution makes parallel innovation in Himi and Uozu unlikely. From the viewpoint of linguistic geography, initial /ba-/ in Himi and Uozu looks instead like a retention.

In other words, it's unlikely that /w-/ hardened to /b/ independently in Himi and Uozu, so /b/ must be a retention. However, Himi and Uozu share what seems like a parallel innovation: the merger of *ba and *Npa as wa.

I think Kawamoto was right. I propose the following scenario. (Tables added 1.13.00:13.)

1. PJ had *w. (I also suspect that PJ had a *b which was not the source of b or w in Himi, Uozo, or Tokyo. However, my PJ *b plays no role in the following changes, so I will no longer mention it.)

*wa *wV
*Npa *pV

(*V = a non-a vowel.)

2. Pre-Toyama, the common ancestor of Himi and Uozu, lost w- before vowels other than a:

we, wi > ɥe, ɥi > ye, yi > e, i (glides assimilated to following vowels)

wo, wu > o, u

*Np became *b.

These changes also occurred in the ancestor of Tokyo:

wa V (no more w-)
ba bV

3. Pre-Toyama w became v.

va V
ba bV

4. Initial v- hardened to b- as in Spanish: va > ba. (I have added a new column for medial -va- and -ba-.)

ba < ba, va -va- V
-ba- bV

5. Medial ba (< PJ *Npa) and va were confused. Eventually the variant with a consonant more like the surrounding vowels (i.e., the fricative v, which had less constriction than the stop b) dominated.

ba -va- < -va-, -ba- V

Cf. how Spanish intervocalic -b- and -v- merged as [β].

6. Speakers of the dialects between Himi and Uozu relearned the older pattern from step 2 still maintained in mainstream dialects like Tokyo, losing the un-Tokyo traits acquired during steps 3-5 above.

7. v shifted back to w under mainstream influence in Himi and Uozu.

ba -wa- V

In short, Himi and Uozu share innovations that they independently retained after the dialects between them assimilated to dialects that lacked those innovations.

Next: A C-l-as-h of Codas *B-UT *WATA-BOUT THE ONSETS? (PART 2)

In part 1, I assumed that a Koreanic word for 'sea' was borrowed into early western Japonic as *bata with a voiced stop that later lenited to Old Japanese w-. Those who reconstruct *b as the source of OJ *w generally also reconstruct *d as the source of OJ *y. Some also reconstruct *z and *g that respectively became OJ Ø- ~ -s- (voiceless!) and Ø. These voiced proto-obstruents are not the sources of the OJ voiced obstruents which were prenasalized:

Proto-Japonic *b *d *z *g *Np *Nt *Ns *Nk
Old Japanese w y Ø- ~ -s- Ø b [mb] d [nd] z [nz] g [ŋg]
Modern Japanese Ø- ~ -s- ~ -sh- [ɕ] b [b] d [d] z [z] ~ [dz] ~ j [dʑ] g [g] ~ [ŋ]

Although I think Proto-Japonic (PJ) or strictly speaking, pre-PJ, had voiced obstruents, I don't think they lenited. I'll present my views on that elsewhere and confine my remarks here to the Japonic lenition theory.

Vovin (2010) recently proposed that PJ had *b- but not *d-:

*p *t *s *k
*Np *Nt *Ns *Nk
*b (no nonlabial voiced obstruents)
*m *n (no other nasals)
(no *w!) *r *y (no velar glide)

Is such a system plausible? I don't know of any current language that has only one voiced stop b.* The b and d sans backer voiced stops pattern is common in Southeast Asia: e.g., Khmer, Thai, Lao, Vietnamese, and standard Zhuang.

Vovin (2010) regarded Psara v- corresponding to OJ u- as the reflex of a lenited PJ *b-:

Vovin-style Proto-Japonic? Psara OJ
*u- u- u-
*bu- v(ụ)-, vu u-, u
*pu- vụ- pu-
*mu- v(ụ)- mu-

(PJ forms are my guesses based on my understanding of Vovin 2010. Do the subscript dots of Psara stand for devoicing which is represented with subscript circles in IPA?)

However, I would rather reconstruct PJ *w- instead of *b-: e.g.,

PJ *wu > Psara vu, OJ u 'hare' (calendrical) If the monosyllabic term for 'hare' is cognate to Middle Japanese usagi (no earlier attestations?), then perhaps it is also cognate to the Koguryo word for 'hare' transcribed as 烏斯含 Middle Chinese *ʔosieɣəm. MC or Late Old Chinese may have lacked *wo, so I cannot tell if the Koguryo word had initial o- or wo-. MC *ie does not match MJ a. If MJ -i is from PJ *-əi, then PJ may correspond to the of 含 MC *ɣəm.

Next: Sowa-t Happened in Shimao? I can no longer doubt Vovin's PJ *b on typological grounds. I found a few languages in UPSID which have a single voiced stop b:

Alabaman (North America) and Paya (South America): unlike Vovin's PJ, both have w as well as b

Roro (Papua New Guinea): like Vovin's PJ, has b but not w

There may be others. I wish there were an easy way to search for combinations of sounds in UPSID. *B-UT *WATA-BOUT THE ONSETS? (PART 1)

My previous entry only dealt with the medial consonant of Old Japanese wata and Middle Korean patah ~ parʌr 'sea'. The initial consonants of those words don't match. (The final consonants are also problematic, but I'll deal with them later.) If those words are indeed related, it's unlikely that Japonic speakers borrowed Koreanic *p- as w-. Therefore one or both initials must be innovations.

Some derive OJ w from Proto-Japonic *b. PJ *b- is closer than PJ *w- to MK p- but is still not a perfect match. Given that MK p- normally corresponds to PJ *p- in words such as

MK pər < *pətɯ* : PJ *pati 'bee'

why would early Koreanic *p- sometimes be borrowed as early western Japonic (EWJ)** *b-?

Solution 1: Early Koreanic *p- was unaspirated, whereas EWJ *p- was aspirated [ph]. Speakers of languages like English and, in this scenario, EWJ, with initial [ph] and [b] but no initial [p] may perceive foreign [p] as being like their [ph] or [b]. Hence early Koreanic *p- was borrowed at random as either EWJ *p- or EWJ *b-.

Solution 1a: If Koreanic and Japonic are related (which I doubt), EWJ *p- and EWJ *b- corresponding to Koreanic *p- are from two different strata of vocabulary: one inherited from Proto-Koreo-Japonic and another borrowed from Koreanic.

Solution 1b: If Koreanic and Japonic are not related, EWJ *p- and EWJ *b- corresponding to Koreanic *p- are from two different strata of borrowing from Koreanic.

(1a and 1b added 1.11.2:18.)

Solution 2: Early Koreanic had a *p-/*b-distinction and the Early Koreanic word for 'sea' had initial *b- which was borrowed as EWJ *b-. There are two problems with this scenario.

First, none of the attested transcriptions of 'sea' on the Korean peninsula had initial *b-:

Koguryo*** 波且: Middle Chinese *patshjaʔ (regarded by Ryu 1983: 520 as an error for 波旦 *patanh)
Koguryo 波利: Middle Chinese *palih

Shilla 波珍: Middle Chinese *paʈin

Shilla 波澄: Middle Chinese *paɖɨŋ

This does not rule out the possibility that EWJ speakers happened to borrow the word from a Koreanic language (Paekche?) that had not yet shifted *b- to *p-. Unfortunately, there is no known Paekche cognate of this word.

Second, interchangeable initial transcription characters in other words on the Korean peninsula such as

Koguryo: 夫 *p ~ *b : 伏 *buk (are there better examples in initial position?)

Paekche: 沸 *pujh : 避 *bieh

Paekche: 富 *puh : 伐 *buat

Shilla: 發 *puat : 伐 *buat

imply that early Koreanic did not have an initial *p-/*b-distinction and that early Koreanic speakers pronounced Chinese *p- and *b- as *p-.

Next: *D-u-*b-ious Voiced Stops in Proto-Japonic

*1.11.1:55: MK pər could be from Proto-Koreanic *pərɯ or *pətɯ with a LH pitch accent but must be from the latter if it is related to PJ *pati.

MK patʌri HHR ~ HHH 'wasp' is vaguely similar, though its vowels belong to the low class whereas *pəCɯ LH had high class vowels with a very different pitch accent pattern. Nonetheless, one could try to relate patʌri to *pəCɯ by positing a common root *pVttV with a geminate *-tt- that was simplified to *-t- and lenited in one dialect but not another.

In my last post, I wrote (emphasis mine),

In Hebrew, intervocalic single stops lenited, whereas intervocalic geminates were simplified [...] The same thing happened in one dialect of Koreanic

I did not intend to imply that Hebrew and Koreanic underwent exactly the same sound changes. In fact, none of the modern Hebrew and Koreanic reflexes of lenited stops are the same:

Lenited intervocalic stop VpV VtV VkV
Modern Hebrew VfV VtV < VθV VxV
Modern Korean (< Middle Korean) VwV < VβV VrV VV < VɣV

The Middle and Modern Korean reflexes are similar to the lenited stops of Tangut and Vietnamese:

Tangut vV, lV, ɣV < *VPV, *VTV, *VKV

Vietnamese [vV zV zV ɣV] < *VPV, *VTV, *VCV, *VKV (*C = palatal stop)

Moreover, I should have noticed that lenition also occurred in final position after vowels in Hebrew, whereas lenition was purely intervocalic in Korean and Tangut. Finally, Korean and Tangut had lenited fricatives and affricates:

Modern Korean VV < Middle Korean VzV < Proto-Korean *V(t)sV

Tangut zV, ʒV < *V(T)SV, *V(T)ŠV

No fricatives lenited in Hebrew which originally had no affricates. (Modern Hebrew ts is from earlier emphatic s.)

**1.11.0:44: I use the term 'early western Japonic' here instead of PJ because Western OJ wata has no Ryukyuan or Eastern OJ cognates that would allow me to reconstruct it at the PJ level.

***1.11.1:59: I use terms like 'Koguryo', 'Paekche', and 'Shilla' to represent any languages or dialects spoken in those kingdoms. I am agnostic about the number of dialects of languages on the Korean peninsula prior to unification. I tentatively assume that the peninsular languages were all Koreanic with remnants of a Japonic substratum. A HEBREW HINT FOR A MARITIME MYSTERY?

Japanese has two words for 'sea', one shared with Okinawan (umi < Proto-Japonic *omi) ́ and another shared with Korean (Old Japanese wata). According to Vovin (2010: 12-32), Korean intervocalic *-t- became -r- at some point after Japanese borrowed wata from Korean, so one would expect the later Korean word to have -r-. But there are two Middle Korean words for 'sea', and only one has *-r-!


parʌr (ʌ may be a reduction of *a)

Vovin derived MK intervocalic -t- from earlier *-nt-. But if the earlier Korean word were *panta, it should correspond to Old Japanese wada [wanda], not wata.

Here's what I think happened. In Hebrew, intervocalic single stops lenited, whereas intervocalic geminates were simplified: e.g.,

saapar > safar 'he counted'

sappaar > sapar 'barber'

(Examples from Hetzron 1993: 695.)

The same thing happened in one dialect of Koreanic:

*kətan > MK *kəran (unattested?) > modern ran 'Khitan'

*pattak > MK patah > modern pada 'sea'

However, in another Koreanic dialect, simplified intervocalic geminates also lenited:

*pattar > *patar > MK parʌr > (no modern descendant)

Thus Old Japanese wata corresponds to an early Koreanic *pat(t)a with or without a geminate prior to lenition.

Next: *B-ut *W-hat about the Onsets?

Then: A C-l-as-h of Codas

1.10.1:40: Unfortunately, the earliest Chinese character transcriptions of Koreanic words for 'sea' do not point to Vovin's *-nt- or my *-tt-:

Koguryo 波且: Middle Chinese *patshjaʔ (regarded by Ryu 1983: 520 as an error for 波旦 *patanh; *-n could transcribe foreign *-r)
Koguryo 波利: Middle Chinese *palih (for *parih?; there was no MC *r)

Shilla 波珍: Middle Chinese *paʈin < Old Chinese *tər

Shilla 波澄: Middle Chinese *paɖɨŋ

I would expect OJ wata to be a borrowing from Paekche, the peninsular state that was the source of literacy and Buddhism in Japan, but the Paekche word for 'sea' was transcribed as 内米 MC *nəjmejʔ which vaguely resembles Japanese nami 'wave'. 内米 could also refer to ponds, so it may have meant 'body of water'. If Paekche had a word meaning only 'sea', it might have been cognate to MK patah and parʌr.

The earliest Chinese character transcriptions of names and titles from Japan had clusters that might represent geminates or tense consonants: e.g.,

邪馬臺 Late Old Chinese *jæmæʔdə 'name of the state of Yamatai' (for  *yamaddə?; Yamatai is the modern Sino-Japanese reading of the transcription; even the alternate spelling 邪馬壹 *jæmæʔʔit may have represented *yamaʔʔit(V) with a geminate)

彌馬獲支 Late Old Chinese *miemæʔwɛkkie 'a title of Yamatai' (for *mema(w)wekke?; cf. Proto-Ryukyuan *weke 'male' [Thorpe 1983: 304])

己百支 Late Old Chinese *kɨəʔpakkie 'name of a state' (for *kəppakke?)

好古都 Late Old Chinese *xouʔkɔʔtɔ 'name of a state' (for *hokkotto?; *h may have merged with zero in early Japonic; modern Japanese h- is from proto-Japonic *p-, not PJ *h-)

對蘇 Late Old Chinese *tuəssɔ 'name of a state' (for *tusso?)

Although the linguistic affiliation of these names is unknown, perhaps early Japonic also had geminates that were later reduced to Old Japanese single consonants and the Koreanic word for 'sea' could have been borrowed as *watta with a geminate. The geminates of modern Japanese would be unrelated to these early geminates. JURCHEN POLYPHONY 3: THE WE BACK TO THE CAPITAL

I began this series with a Jurchen character

transcribed in Chinese as 苦 *ku 'bitter' and as 都蠻 *duman 'capital-southern barbarian', and I am ending it with another 'urban' Jurchen character which has a record number of different readings:


Kiyose 70 (hereafter K70): <her> (J: <hele>) 'city'

phonogram for <hu>, <u>, <we>, (J: <huwe>), <e>, (Y: <o>), <du> (transcribed as 都 *du 'capital'), (J: <ke>)

The readings are from Kiyose (1977: 65, 127) except for those marked with 'J' from Jin (1984: 35) and 'Y' from Yamaji Hiroaki.

If a word spelled with <huwe> came to be spelled with <we>


<huwe> > <huwe.we> = huwe

then <huwe> could have been reinterpreted as a phonogram <hu>.

And just as <clha> might have once been <ilha>, <we> might have once been <huwe>:


<huwe> > <hu.huwe> reinterpreted as <hu.we> = huwe

If those derivations are correct, the number of readings of K70 can be reduced to seven: <her>/<hele>, <huwe>, <u>, <e>, <o>, <du>, <ke>. Perhaps each of the characters now regarded as variants originally had only one or two of these readings. Were there originally up to seven distinct characters?

1.9.3:15: Are we seeing the Jurchen equivalent of merging the mostly unrelated though similar-looking Chinese characters (all readings are in Cantonese)



jaat (derived from inversion of 曱 below; Ct 曱甴 gaatjaat is a disyllabic word 'cockroach')

san < Old Chinese *hlin

din < Old Chinese *lins (derived from 申 above)


gaat (derived from near-homophone 甲?)

into a single 'character'?

Next: A Hebrew Hint for a Maritime Mystery?

1.9.1:15: Jin (1984: 35) noted that K70


resembled Chinese 左 *tso 'left' which was Jurchenized as


since Chinese unaspirated obstruents were borrowed as Jurchen voiced obstruents.

The Jurchen word for 'left' was

<hai.su> (cf. Manchu has'hu; <su> is derived from the right side of Chn 穌 *su)

<dzo>, <hai.su>, and their graphs bear no resemblance to K70 and its readings. So is the resemblance between K70 and Chn 左 'left' coincidental? The reading <o> of K70 is vaguely like Middle Korean 왼 oyn 'left'. Was K70 based on a Parhae modification of 左 representing a Koreanic word for 'left'?

1.9.1:29: <her> [xər]/<hele> [xələ] 'city' must be related to the Koguryo word for 'fortress' transcribed as 忽 Late Old Chinese *xwət ~ Middle Chinese *xot. Chinese *-t might correspond to a Koguryo *-r or *-l. LOC and MC did not have liquid codas.

The reading <du> for K70 could be a Jurchenization of Chn 都 *tu 'capital' which in turn might have been a loose translation of <her>/<hele> 'city'.

I don't know why Kiyose (1977: 65) reconstructed <her> with <r>. The Chinese transcription was 黑勒 *xəj-ləj, not 黑兒 *xəj-r̩ which would correspond to <her>.

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Tangut radical and Khitan fonts by Andrew West
Jurchen font by Jason Glavy
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