Speaker: Juliette Blevins, CUNY Graduate Center
ADVANCES IN PROTO-BASQUE RECONSTRUCTION AND THE PROTO-INDO-EUROPEAN-EUSKARA HYPOTHESIS
The method of internal reconstruction, like the comparative method, is greatly aided by studies of phonetic bases of sound change, as well as typological characteristics of sound inventories, phonotactics, and alternation types. In the first part of this talk, these factors are used to reconstruct Proto-Basque, solving five central problems in Basque diachrony: the nature of the obstruent series; the high frequency and distribution of /h/ in historic Basque; vowel-copy sound patterns; origins of the apical/laminal sibilant contrast; and the absence of *m. In contrast to the reconstructions proposed by Michelena (1957, 1961; 1977), and more recently, the CVC root theory of Lakarra (1995, 2013), this reconstruction of Proto-Basque has:*m; two laryngeal series of obstruents, plain voiced and voiceless aspirated; stem-initial consonant clusters; a single sibilant *s; and many roots that have shapes other than CVC. Of great importance is reconstruction of proto-forms with initial clusters *bh-, *dh-, and *gh-, as well as *Tr clusters (T an oral stop) and *sC clusters. The superficial similarity between this Proto-Basque sound system and Proto-Indo-European is striking. In Part II of the talk, the comparative method is applied to these two languages with startling results: regular sound correspondences for all consonants and vowels, in a wide range of stems and words, including basic vocabulary, suggesting that Proto-Basque and Proto-Indo-European are related. Further, conservative features of Proto-Basque suggest that it does not descend from Proto-Indo-European. Rather, the Proto-Indo-European-Euskara hypothesis is that these two ancient languages both descended from the same, older, mother tongue. The radical nature of this finding leads us to address whether these correspondences could be due to chance. Proto-Indo-European homophone sets, long roots, and roots with unique meanings have Proto-Basque cognates, strengthening the hypothesis.