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Phonological history of Kolyma Ainu
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ch-ch-ch-changes
This public article was written by protondonor, and last updated on 1 Jan 2017, 16:34.

[comments] Proto-Ainu
First, a brief overview of Proto-Ainu phonology as reconstructed by Alexander Vovin.

Proto-Ainu had the following consonants:
pt dk gʔ*
mn
sh
rj

* - Vovin transcribes this as <q>, but it is not to be confused with the Kolyma Ainu phoneme /q/, which historically results from either Yukaghir /q/ or Proto-Ainu /k/

It also had the following vowels:
iyɯu
eøɤo
ɛɔ
aɑ


Proto-Ainu had a simple system of vowel harmony, which governs the appearance of the clitic forms =i and =u in modern Hokkaido varieties of Ainu. In all branches of Ainu except for Kolyma Ainu, the front rounded vowels would be merged with back rounded vowels, and the back unrounded vowels would likewise be merged with front unrounded vowels.

Old Kolyma Ainu
Old Kolyma Ainu went through some changes common to all Ainu languages, in what could be called the "Old Common Ainu" stage:
  • ʔu > w % _V
  • ʔi > j % _V
  • r > {t,d,s,n} / _{t,d,s,n}
  • t > ts ~ tʃ / _{i,j}
  • s > ʃ / _{i,j}
  • r > j / #C_
  • hd > w / #_
  • hd > s / V_V
  • merger of /a/ and /ɑ/


The following additional changes distinguish Old Kolyma Ainu from other Ainu languages:
  • mid-low vowels merge with mid-high vowels (this also occurred in Sakhalin and Kuril varieties; in Hokkaido varieties a chain shift occurred, where mid-high and high vowels merged leaving mid-low vowels to become mid vowels)
  • g > ʁ (in Kuril dialects it usually remained /g/ or was dropped; in Sakhalin Ainu it became /k/; in Hokkaido Ainu varieties it became /h/)
  • h > χ (otherwise attested only in some 18th-century dialects of Kuril Ainu)
  • expansion of vowel harmony to cover all roots and most clitics
  • hj > ʃ (in Sakhalin and Kuril Ainu the outcome of this cluster is /j/; in Hokkaido Ainu it is /h/)
  • dj > dz ~ dʒ (in Sakhalin Ainu, d became /t/ in all positions; in Kuril and Hokkaido Ainu it became /r/ in all positions)


Middle Kolyma Ainu
The earliest identifiable loanwords from Siberian languages (with the possible exception of some Proto-Ainu etyma that can be traced to Nivkh) were generally inherited during this stage of the language. The following sound changes distinguish Middle Kolyma Ainu from earlier stages:
  • development of the palatal nasal, usually transcribed <ñ> but with IPA value /ɲ/, in the following circumstances:
    • jn > ɲ
    • n > ɲ / _C[+front]
    • j > ɲ / _VC[+nasal]

  • development of the velar nasal in the following circumstances:
    • n > ŋ / _C[+back]
    • w > ŋ / _VC[+nasal]
    • χn > ŋ / #_
    • n > ŋ / _C[+nasal]

  • r > n / _VC[+nasal]
  • loss of χ before a consonant, with compensatory lengthening of the previous vowel or insertion of an epenthetic vowel between χ and C
  • voicing of short obstruents between vowels
  • degemination of consonants


Modern Kolyma Ainu
Modern Kolyma Ainu is characterized by increasing Russian influence. The vast majority of Russian loans date from this period. Sound changes characteristic of Modern Kolyma Ainu include:
  • voicing of sibilants /s ʃ/ between vowels
  • k > q % _{a,χ,ʁ} (this change, by and large, only affects native Ainu words)
  • n > m / _{b,p,m}
  • n > 0 / ŋ_
  • 0 > u / C_w
  • backing of /i/ to /ɨ/ after non-palatalized coronals (this environment only exists in loanwords, usually Russian)
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