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Rhotacism (sound change)

Rhotacism (/ˈrtəsɪzəm/)[1] or rhotacization is a sound change that converts one consonant (usually a voiced alveolar consonant: /z/, /d/, /l/, or /n/) to a rhotic consonant in a certain environment. The most common may be of /z/ to /r/.[2] When a dialect or member of a language family resists the change and keeps a /z/ sound, this is sometimes known as zetacism.

The term comes from the Greek letter rho, denoting /r/.

AlbanianEdit

The southern, Tosk dialects, the base of Standard Albanian, changed /n/ to /r/, but the northern, Gheg dialects did not:[2]

  • zëri vs. zâni 'the voice'
  • gjuri vs. gjuni 'the knee'
  • Shqipëria vs. Shqypnia 'Albania'
  • i gëzuar vs. i gëzuem 'cheerful'
  • i tretur vs. i tretun 'lost'
  • i qeshur vs. i qeshun 'smiling'
  • këputur vs. këputun 'broken'
  • i prekur vs. i prekun 'touched'
  • i habitur vs. i habitun 'amazed'
  • Arbëria vs. Arbënia 'Albania' (older name of the country)
  • i djegur vs. i djegun 'burnt'
  • i dehur vs. i dehun 'drunk'
  • i pjekur vs. i pjekun 'baked'
  • druri vs. druni 'wood'
  • bëra vs. bona 'did'
  • vura vs. vuna 'put'
  • zura vs. zuna 'caught'
  • pluhur vs. pluhun 'dust'
  • i lumtur vs. i lumtun 'happy'
  • dashuri vs. dashni 'love'

AramaicEdit

In Aramaic, Proto-Semitic n changed to r in a few words:

  • bar "son" as compared to Hebrew ben (from Proto-Semitic *bnu)
  • trên and tartên "two" (masculine and feminine form respectively) as compared to Demotic Arabic tnēn and tintēn, from Proto-Semitic *ṯnaimi and *ṯnataimi. Compare also Aramic tinyânâ "the second one", without the shift.

BasqueEdit

Aquitanian *l changed to the tapped r between vowels in Basque.[3] It can be observed in words borrowed from Latin; for example, Latin caelum (meaning "sky, heaven") became zeru in Basque (caelum > celu > zeru; compare cielo in Spanish). The original l is preserved in the Souletin dialect: caelum > celu > zelü.

FinnishEdit

Western dialects of Finnish are characterised by the pronunciation /r/ or /ɾ/ of the consonant written d in Standard Finnish kahden kesken- kahren kesken (two together = one on one).[example needed] The reconstructed older pronunciation is .

Goidelic languagesEdit

In Manx, Scottish Gaelic and some dialects of Irish, a /kn/ cluster developed into /kr/, often with nasalization of the following vowel, as in Scottish Gaelic cnoc [krɔ̃xk] ('hill').[2]

Germanic languagesEdit

All surviving Germanic languages, which are members of the North and West Germanic families, changed /z/ to /r/, implying a more approximant-like rhotic consonant in Proto-Germanic.[4] Some languages later changed all forms to r, but Gothic, an extinct East Germanic language, did not undergo rhotacism.

Proto-Germanic Gothic Old Norse (Old English)
Modern English
Old Frisian[5] Dutch (Old High German)
Modern German
*was,1st/3rd sg *wēzum1st pl was, wēsum
 
var, várum
 
(wæs, wǣron)
was, were
was, wēren  
was, waren
(was, wārum)
war, waren
*fraleusaną,inf *fraluzanazp.part. fraliusan, fralusans
 

 
(forlēosan, forloren)
forlese, forlorn
urliāsa, urlāren  
verliezen, verloren
(farliosan, farloren)
verlieren, verloren

Note that the Modern German forms have levelled the rhotic consonant to forms that did not originally have it.

Because of the presence of words that did not undergo rhotacisation from the same root as those that did, the result of the process remains visible in a few modern English word pairs:

EnglishEdit

Intervocalic /t/ and /d/ are commonly lenited to [ɾ] in most accents of North American and Australian English and some accents of Irish English and English English,[6] a process known as tapping or less accurately as flapping:[7] got a lot of /gɒtə lɒtə/ becomes [gɒɾə lɒɾə]. Contrast is usually maintained with /r/, and the [ɾ] sound is rarely perceived as /r/.[2]

GermanEdit

In Central German dialects, especially Rhine Franconian and Hessian, /d/ is frequently realised as [ɾ] in intervocalic position. The change also occurs in Mecklenburg dialects. Compare Borrem (Central Hessian) and Boden (Standard German).

Italic languagesEdit

LatinEdit

  • flōsnomflōremacc (Old Latin flōsem)
  • genusnomgenerisgen (from *geneses, cf. Sanskrit janasas)
  • rōbus,[8] rōbustusrōbur, corrōborāre (verb from *conrobosare)
  • jūstusde jūre (from de jouse)
  • esterō (from esō)

Reflecting a highly-regular change in pre-Classical Latin, intervocalic s in Old Latin, which is assumed to have been pronounced /z/), invariably became r. Intervocalic s in Classical Latin suggests either borrowing (rōsa) or reduction of an earlier ss after a long vowel or a diphthong (pausa < paussa, vīsum < *vīssum < *weid-tom). The s was preserved initially (septum) and finally and in consonant clusters.

Old Latin honos became honor in Late Latin by analogy with the rhotacised forms in other cases such as genitive, dative and accusative honoris, honori, honorem.[9]

The d and the l changed to r before another d or l and so the same consonant did not appear twice in a row (dissimilation):

  • mediusmerīdiēs (from *medi-diēs)
  • caelumcaeruleus (from *cael-uleus)

The phenomenon was noted by the Romans themselves:

In many words in which the ancients said s, they later said r... foedesum foederum, plusima plurima, meliosem meliorem, asenam arenam

— Varro, De lingua Latina, VII, 26, In multis verbis, in quo antiqui dicebant s, postea dicunt r... foedesum foederum, plusima plurima, meliosem meliorem, asenam arenam

NeapolitanEdit

In Neapolitan, rhotacism affects words that etymologically contained intervocalic or initial /d/.

PortugueseEdit

In Galician-Portuguese, rhotacism occurred from /l/ to /r/, mainly in consonant clusters ending in /l/ such as in the words obrigado, "thank you" (originarily from "obliged [in honourably serving my Sir]"); praia, "beach"; prato, "plate" or "dish"; branco, "white"; prazer, "pleasure"; praça, "square". Compare Spanish obligado (obliged), playa, plato, blanco, placer, plaza from Latin obligatus, plagia, platus, blancus (Germanic origin), placere (verb), platea.

In contemporary Brazilian Portuguese, rhotacism of /l/ in the syllable coda is characteristic of the Caipira dialect. Further rhotacism in the nationwide vernacular includes planta, "plant", as [ˈpɾɐ̃tɐ], lava, "lava", as /ˈlarvɐ/ (then homophonous with larva, worm/maggot), lagarto, "lizard", as [laʁˈɡaʁtu] (in dialects with guttural coda r instead of a tap) and advogado, "lawyer", as [ɐ̞de̞vo̞ʁˈɡadu]. The nonstandard patterns are largely marginalised, and rhotacism is regarded as a sign of speech-language pathology or illiteracy.

RomanescoEdit

Rhotacism, in Romanesco, shifts l to r before a consonant, like certain Andalusian dialects of Spanish. Thus, Latin altus (tall) is alto in Italian but becomes arto in Romanesco. Rhotacism used to happen when l was preceded by a consonant, as in the word ingrese (English), but modern speech has lost that characteristic.

Another change related to r was the shortening of the geminated rr, which is not rhotacism. Italian errore, guerra and marrone "error", "war", "brown" become erore, guera and marone.

RomanianEdit

In Romanian, rhotacism shifted intervocalic l to r and n to r.

Thus, Latin caelum (meaning 'heaven' or 'sky') became Romanian cer, Latin fenestra (meaning 'window') Romanian fereastră and Latin felicitas (meaning 'happiness') Romanian fericire.

Some northern Romanian dialects and Istro-Romanian also changed all intervocalic [n] to [ɾ] in words of Latin origin.[10] For example, Latin bonus became Istro-Romanian bur: compare to standard Daco-Romanian bun.

Other languagesEdit

Rhotacism (mola > mora, filum > fir, sal > sare) exists in Gallo-Italic as well in Western Lombard, Alpine Lombard and Ligurian.

In Umbrian but not Oscan, rhotacism of intervocalic s occurred as in Latin.[11]

SicilianEdit

Rhotacism is particularly widespread in the island of Sicily, but it is almost completely absent in the Sicilian varieties of the mainland (Calabrese and Salentino). It affects intervocalic and initial /d/: cura from Latin caudam, pit is eri from Latin pedem, reci from Latin decem'.

SpanishEdit

In Andalusian Spanish, particularly in Seville, at the end of a syllable before another consonant, l is replaced with r: Huerva for Huelva. The reverse occurs in Caribbean Spanish: Puelto Rico for Puerto Rico.

SanskritEdit

In Sanskrit, words ending in -s other than -as become -r in sandhi with a voiced consonant:

  • naus (before p, t, k) vs naur bharati
  • agnis (before p, t, k) vs agnir mata

That is not properly rhotacism since r and s are then simply allophones.

South Slavic languagesEdit

(This section relies on the treatment in Greenberg 1999.[12])

In some South Slavic languages, rhotacism occasionally changes a voiced palatal fricative [ʒ] to a dental or alveolar tap or trill [r] between vowels:

  • moreš (Slovene, dialectal Serbo-Croatian) 'you can' from earlier možešь
  • kdor (Slovene) from earlier kъto-že

The beginning of the change is attested in the Freising manuscripts from the 10th century AD, which show both the archaism (ise 'which' < *jь-že) and the innovation (tere 'also' < *te-že). The shift is also found in individual lexical items in Bulgarian dialects, дорде 'until' (< *do-že-dĕ) and Macedonian, сеѓере (archaic: 'always'). However, the results of the sound change have largely been reversed by lexical replacement in dialects in Serbia and Bosnia from the 14th century.

Dialects in Croatia and Slovenia have preserved more of the lexical items with the change and have even extended grammatical markers in -r from many sources that formally merged with the rhotic forms that arose from the sound change: Slovene dialect nocor 'tonight' (< *not'ь-sь-ǫ- + -r-) on the model of večer 'evening' (< *večerъ). The reversal of the change is evident in dialects in Serbia in which the -r- formant is systematically removed: Serbian veče 'evening'.

See alsoEdit

  • Lambdacism, the related condition or phonetic shift with regard to the sound /l/

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "American English Dictionary: Definition of rhotacism". Collins. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d Catford (2001:178)
  3. ^ Trask, R. Larry (2008), Wheeler, Max W. (ed.), A Historical Dictionary of Basque (PDF), University of Essex, p. 29, retrieved January 22, 2011
  4. ^ Catford (2001:179)
  5. ^ D. Hofmann, A.T. Popkema, Altfriesisches Handwörterbuch (Heidelberg 2008).
  6. ^ Harris, John (1994). English Sound Structure. Blackwell. p. 121. ISBN 0-631-18741-3.
  7. ^ Ladefoged, Peter (2006). A Course in Phonetics. Thomson. pp. 171–3. ISBN 978-1-4130-0688-9.
  8. ^ robus1; rōbur. Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short. A Latin Dictionary on Perseus Project.
  9. ^ Malte Rosemeyer (15 April 2014). Auxiliary Selection in Spanish: Gradience, gradualness, and conservation. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 81. ISBN 978-90-272-7040-5.
  10. ^ Nandris (1963:255–258)
  11. ^ Buck, Carl Darling. 1904. A grammar of Oscan and Umbrian: with a collection of inscriptions and a glossary
  12. ^ Greenberg (1999)

BibliographyEdit

  • Catford, J.C. (2001), "On Rs, rhotacism and paleophony", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 31 (2): 171–185, doi:10.1017/S0025100301002018
  • Crowley, Terry (1997). An Introduction to Historical Linguistics (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195583786.
  • Greenberg, Marc L. (1999), "Multiple Causation in the Spread and Reversal of a Sound Change: Rhotacism in South Slavic", Slovenski jezik/Slovene Linguistics Studies, 2: 63–76 http://hdl.handle.net/1808/803
  • Nandris, O (1963), Phonétique Historique du Roumain, Paris: Klincksiek