The Greek prothetic vowel and the Sanskrit long-reduplicant perfect: a statistical evaluation of the Indo-European Laryngeal Theory Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Conn, Jeffrey T.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Linguistics
  • Although now accepted almost universally, the "Laryngeal Theory" of Indo-European linguistics has been criticized in the past as being too abstract and formalistic; making excessive claims for the effects of the posited "laryngeal" segments; and implying typologically odd features of the proto-language. This study addresses a small subset of these concerns by statistically measuring the degree of correlation between two phenomena which the Laryngeal Theory implies should be correlated. These are the "prothetic vowel" of Greek, and the lengthened reduplication-syllable of certain Sanskrit perfects. Both of these are attributed by the Laryngeal Theory to the presence of a laryngeal segment at the beginning of the root in proto-Indo-European. If the Laryngeal Theory is correct, there should be more roots whose reflexes show both of these developments than should occur by chance. The correlation is measured by the Fisher's Exact test. For the set of all roots as defined traditionally, the P value is 0.25349; for roots grouped together without distinguishing between root-extensions and similar alterations, the value is 0.26401; and for resonant-initial roots the value is 0.67371. These figures are consistent with the predicitons of the Laryngeal Theory, but also with the hypothesis that both the Greek prothetic vowel and the Sanskrit long-reduplicant perfects are due to epenthesis before resonant-initial roots.
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  • Melchert, H. Craig
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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