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Valentyn Stetsyuk (Lviv, Ukraine)

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Hypothetical Nostratic sound RZ: To the Problem of Rhotacism and Zetacism

One of the puzzles of the Altaic languages is the nature of the phonetic correspondence r/l – š/s (z). This complex phenomenon assumes the existence of two groups of Turkic languages, differing as follows. Similar phonetic words of the same sense can have on the same position either the sounds r, l, or š, s, z. For example, the name of a bull is pronounced öküz, ögüz in many Turkic languages, but Chuvash has văkăr.

Accordingly, these groups are called by scholars r (l/r)-languages and z-languages. The latter are called also standard languages. At present the group of r-language consists of the Chuvash language at present, but it is assumed that other r-languages existed earlier too. However, we can often find even among the z-languages that semantic near words of the same stem can have both the sound z, and the sound r on the same position. For example, the Turkic word semiz “fat" corresponds to the verb semir-“ to fatten, get fat, grow." In addition, some z-languages have r sound in the place where the other have z: Tur. yasa "law, statute" – Karachi džoruq «law», with Kaz., Uzbek. tezek, tizak "manure" – Gag. ders «the same». Thus, there is no clear pattern of sound transformations in this matter.

The competent British specialist in Turkic philology, uniting l/r-languages into a single one, points to its peculiarities and difficulties of its research by such words:

Our knowledge of l/r Turkish is so fragmentary and discontinuous that it is better not to attempt to trace its history in detail, remarking merely that the difference between l/r Turkish and standard languages were primarily in the pronunciation of certain sounds and probably only to a small extent in matters of word structure, grammar, and vocabulary; what is said below about the general structure of standard Turkish is equally applicable to l/r Turkish (CLAUSON GERARD. 2002: 44-45).

It is assumed that the Altaic languages had a certain sound, a sonorant or fricative, which later was preserved in one part of the Turkic languages, other part reflected it as the alternative. Correspondence r/lš/s/z in the Turkic languages are quite numerous. For many years, scholars disputed what the sound was originally the sonorant or fricative. Evidence in favor of the first and second assumptions exists or rather, is treated, as fairly conclusive. According to the two positions of scientists, two lines have been developed in the Turkic phonology – the "zetacism" and "rhotacism" theories. The term "rhotacism/lambdaism" is used sometimes too. While some scientists named preservation of archaic r/l by "rhotacism/lambdaism", others understood this term as the transition of primary š, s or z. in r/l. Accordingly, the zetacism could be understood as the conservation of the sounds š/s/z or the transition r/l in these sounds. This different understanding did not help to resolve the problem, it is still unclear. We can find in the literature directly opposite conclusions about trends in the development of views on this issue. Some believe that it becomes more adherents of rhotacism, while others write the same about the supporters of the zetacism. (Cf PALLO MARGIT K. , 1985: 87 and PETROV L.P., YEGOROV N.I. , 1987: 90.)

The complexity of the problem is complicated by the false conception of the Altaic origin of the Turks and the supposed genetic relationship of the Turkic languages with the Mongolian and Tungus-Manchu groups. Based on this conception, any deviation from the common Turkic norms should have been common in some cases for the Chuvash, on the one hand, and the Mongol or Manchu-Tungus languages, on the other. It is known that the Chuvash language stands alone among the whole set of Turkic languages and it was natural to assume that some of its features should draw it together with the Mongol languages. Searching Chuvash-Mongolian linguistic relations scholars clearly overdone and often given for such coincidences or far-fetched analogies. This applies to the problem of the rhotacism-zetacism. The assertions of a large number of Chuvash-Mongolian lexical correspondences that contain the sounds r and l on those places where the vast majority of Turkic languages have š/s/z wander from book to book.

However, in practice, it turned out that the Mongolian-Chuvash matches are not so much. Some linguists acknowledged this:

The Chuvash language has some Mongolian words not found in other Turkic languages. It is above all pronouns… More Mongolian-Chuvash correspondences are few, but enough to prove the coexistence of the Proto-Chuvash and Mongolian peoples in the distant past – long before the Mongol conquest (AKHMETIANOV R.G., 1978: 119).

EExcept for pronouns, which analysis is a matter for specialists, the cited paper gave six or seven Chuvash words having matches in the Mongolian language, but that does not mean they are absent in other Turkic languages or they never had them or they never existed in the Old Turkic language. A similar phenomenon can be observed in the Hungarian language, where separate Hungarian-Mongolian lexical matches are present. On this occasion, the famous Hungarian linguist Zoltan Gomboc wrote:

The fact that in some cases, matches to the Hungarian words can be found only in the Mongolian language… has not matter, as the ancient Turkic vocabulary is known to us, not in all full (GOMBOC ZOLTAN., 1985-1, )

On the other hand, some of the Chuvash-Mongolian matches can not be considered ancients, if we pay attention to the meaning of words ("tin", "a shawl"). And, as always, there may be a coincidence. Such a bias is inherent also to many scholars finding Chuvash-Mongolian phonetic correspondences, in particular, the r/l š/s/z . The list of matches, compiled based on data collected online from the international project "The Tower of Babel", established under the leadership of SA Starostin, is given below. The senses of the Chuvash words were specified in the dictionary.

Chuv çěrě “a ring”, Turkm, Kasrach jüzük, etc. “a ring” – Mong dörü “a ring”.

Chuv jěr “a track”, Trc iz, yz, “a track” – Mong irağa “a shoot, wave”.

Chuv kěr “outmen”, Trc küz, güz, “outmen”, – Mong qura “rain”.

Chuv var “middle”, Trc üz, öz “inside” – Mong örü “inside, chest”.

Chuv samărt “fat, well-fed”, Trc semiz “fat” – Mong semž’i “interior fat”.

Chuv šur “swamp”, Trk saz “swamp” – Mong sirağu “earth”.

Chuv sěr “to filter”, Trc süz, söz “to filter” – Mong sürči “to drizzle”.

Chuv takăr “even, flat”, Trc tegiz, tekiz “even, equal” – Mong tegsi “even, flat”.

Chuv čěrçi “knee”, Trc diz, tiz, dize “a knee” – Mong türei “a bootleg”.

Chuv tar “to run away”, Trc tas, “to run away”, – Mong tergil“to run away”.

Chuv türě “right”, Trcdüz “right” – Mong töre “a rule, law”.

Chuv vărax “slow”, Trc uzun, uzaq “long” – Mong urtu “long”.

As we can see, the list is small, and some matches may be of pure Turkic origin, and their Mongol correspondences are just borrowing. In addition, the absence of the Mongolian correspondences to the most ancient Turk words having obvious signs of rhotatcism-zetatcism such as, for example, qyz “a girl" or ögüz “an ox” is to be taken in consideration. Thus there can be no question of absolute regularity in accordance of Chuvash and Mongolian r to modern Turkic z. However, even a few indisputable Chuvash and Mongol correspondences should be given some explanation. Since, as, in consequence of our studies, the speakers of the ancient Chuvash and Mongol language had no the prehistoric era, but some facts of common phonetic phenomena exist in these languages, we can assume the existence specific sounds rz and in the ancient Turkic language, one of which could be easily transformed in r, or s/z, and the other in the l or š. The phenomenon of rhotacism-zetacism is also known in some Indo-European languages (Latin, Germanic) and there are signs of it in Finno-Ugric languages. An example of the existence of the sound in Iranian languages are two forms of the name of the finger OIr. *anguli and *angušta. The prototype was angulš (t – epithesis).

Since the formation of the Turkic languages took place near the settlements of Indo-Europeans in Eastern Europe (STETSYUK VALENTYN. 1998), one could admit that the phonetics of the Turkic and the Indo-European languages had some common features. Thanks to preserved ancient texts, the phonetics of the Indo-European languages was recovered better than the Turkic ones. One of its features is the presence of aspirated sounds bh, ph, th, dh, etc. In addition, the Greek language had affricates ks (ξ), ps (ψ), dz (ζ). It has long N. Marr developed his theory about the development of speech sounds from simple to complex. These complex sounds might break into simpler sounds of modern languages and can exist now. Along with fair criticism of some of his ideas, this theory was also criticized. Speaking of trying to find similarities between human and animal sounds, Gertrud Pätsch stated:

The gulf between the backward modern tribes and the animal world is so deep that these attempts could lead to fantastic hypotheses, but never to real results (PÄTSCH GERTRUd. 1955: 69).

This German zealous follower of I.V. Stalin believed that the articulation of human speech sounds was a "qualitatively new moment" (ibid.). She did not explain what kind of "moment" it was, so this statement can be considered unfounded. The similarity of the sounds of humans and animals comes from the similarity of the structure of their larynx, and closely connected with nature, primitive man imitated not only his kind but also animals. The most developed of them, monkeys express their various feelings with sounds and give signals to one another about danger or the presence of food. Accordingly, some of the sounds of primitive man must have been as inarticulate as the sounds made by animals. Such an assumption looks all the more logical if we proceed from the fact that man descended from some kind of primate unknown to us. However, even without delving into this complex issue, the same can be argued based on the fact that in many ancient languages, ​​there were sounds with complex articulation, which later went through a process of simplification.

In our case, the hypothetical sound that could transit as in r, and in s/z is a fricative trill rz, existing now in the Czech language (ř) and existed in Polish (rz) but transformed into ž or š depending of the sonority the preceding consonant. Whether it was the primordial Proto-Slavic sound, dating back to Indo-European, or it developed in Polish and Czech under the influence of the Bulgarians who dwelled adjacent to the ancestors of the Czechs and Poles for a certain time, science has yet to find out, but in any case the Slavic language should have two r – either long and short, or hard and soft, or simple and complex. Thus, nothing prevents us assume the existence of the sound rz in the ancient Turkic language, which has been already done before (STETSYUK VALENTYN., 2000: 29). But there were not only in Slavic two sounds r, the same can be said about the Armenian language which has the sounds r and rr (long). The long Armenian sound rrcorresponds to the hypothetical Old Turkic rz, as it is evidenced by the ancient Armenian-Gagauz lexical match: Arm antarr "a forest" corresponds Gag andyz "a grove, bush". Similar words for a forest in Armenian and Gagauz have survived from the days when Proto-Armenians and Oguz (Gagauz ancestors) populated adjacent habitats. Hr. Acharyan in his etymological dictionary, without considering the possibility of Turkic origin of the Armenian word, supposed that it derived from the Indo-European root der-, meaning "a tree", and gives to it a parallel in Sanskrit – vanatara (ACHARRJAN HR. 1971). However, the question of the origin of the word in this case is not important, important for us is the correspondence long Arm rr and Turkic rz.

The sound ř (rz) has been preserved in some Turkic languages to this day, as evidenced by the mentioned correspondence kaz. Uzbek tezek, tizak "dung" – Gag. ders "same". And the Chuv corresponding to them. tyrĕs with reduced ĕ can confirm the original form ders. This supposed consonant had a voiceless pair in the sound ĺ () which could turn at different languages in l, š, ss, s, for example, Old Turk. word yĺyq "warm" became such modifications: Tur. ılık, Cuv. ăšă, Uzb. issik, in other languages also ysyq "the same".

The existence of the fricative trill in Finno-Ugric is confirmed by the Umurt language, were it was transformed in ʤ (cf. Komi ryt "evening" – Udm. ʤyt "the same", Komi roj "moss" – Udm. ʤuj "the same" a.o.)

The rhotacism phenomenon, that is replacing the phoneme z (s) by the phoneme r, known in Latin since the 4th century BC, has taken place also in some West-Germanic languages (YEGOROV V.G., 1971: 25). Some phonetic facts of the Ukrainian language may also testify in favor of the existence of the sound rz in it: Ukr. zherst' – Rus. zhest'. This word is borrowed from the Turkic languages, in which it means “copper, brass” and has the forms jes, zes, zis, etc. The Ukrainian r remains unclear. It allegedly arose under the influence of the word sherst' "wool", which is unconvincing (VASMER NAX, 1964; MELNYCHUK O. S., 1982). The fact of borrowing a Ukrainian word from some Turkic language can explain the presence of this sound in it, if the borrowing occurred at a time when the sound rz still existed in one of the Turkic languages. The Turkic proto-form can be deduced as *zerz. Then, with the existence of the parallel *zelz, it becomes possible to explain the still incomprehensible etymology of the Proto-Slavic *zelzo “iron”. The Ukrainian word is phonetically closest to OT. *zelz, but from which Turkic language the borrowing originated is not clear. In the Chuvash language, nothing but çěrě “ring” (from zerze) is found, but this word is semantically quite far away.

Thus, Chuvash-Mongolic counterparts can be explained as follows. That part of the Turks, who migrated from Europe to Asia, brought their phonetic features also there. The forebears of the Mongols and Tungus, borrowing many Turkic words, articulate the sound rz/rs as r at once, while the Bulgars simplified its pronunciation in the usual r much later, but the same result of replacing the complex sound in the more simple one gives the warrant to talk about imaginary Bulgar-Mongolian (Chuvash-Mongolian) relation, which never took place.

The proposed hypothesis may help clarify the etymology of "dark" words in different languages. For example, Mar. preze "a calf", which has no matches in the other Finno-Ugric languages, can ascend a protoform of modern-day Chuv. păru, closest to the Mari word, but not it could be a source of borrowing on phonological reasons. The ancient Mari borrowed the name of a calf from other Turks, which had existed as *bürzäv, which developed in Chuv. păru and also in Turkm. buzav, Tur. buzov and other similar ones. Originally, the Mari word Mari had to take the form of *perzav.

They borrowed a word from neighboring the Turkic-speaking Scythians (Bulgars), preserving the length of the Turkic sound and simultaneously joining voiced and unvoiced versions in one word (English – girl). The sound ř was simplified in most sound Turkic languages to z and they have the form qyz of this word, while it was transformed in r in the Chuvash (Chuv. xĕr "a girl"). Complex transformations occurred with the Turkic archetype qyř (qyĺ) "a girl" when borrowing it in the Old English. Studies have shown that for a long time, the Anglo-Saxons remained close to their ancestral home in Eastern Europe after the other Germanic tribes migrated westward (see. the section Anglo-Saxons on Ukraine).

In general, it can be said that there are ample pieces of evidence that the fricative trill of rz and its modifications were widespread in the Nostratic languages in the old times, and traces of these sounds in different languages and various forms are preserved until now.