Posted by: ayac | June 2, 2015

Miscellaneous Uto-Aztecan oddities

I’ve been meaning to make posts about things I currently know about Uto-Aztecan but I thought it might be easier to list things I don’t know.

Inic centlamantli.

Nahuatl for ‘deer’ is mazā-tl. I have no idea how a native Nahuatl word could end up with a long a in the final syllable; maybe it’s not possible, and its presence indicates a loanword. Or maybe there was some rare set of circumstances in Proto-Uto-Aztecan that regularly led to this outcome, which I don’t know about yet.

Cora muasá and Huichol máxa contradict each other; normally their tones match. Cora muasá should correspond to Huichol ×maxá and Nahuatl ×maza-tl, while Huichol máxa should correspond to Cora ×muása and Nahuatl ×māza-tl.

Mayo/Yaqui maaso has a different second vowel. The vowel length matches Huichol but not Cora (and I don’t even know what the expected match for Nahuatl would be).

Huarijío has mahói, which makes even less sense. To match Mayo/Yaqui it should be ×maasó; to match Cora it should be ×mahsá. sh is not a change that occurs in Huarijío, but it does occur in Pimic, and Northern Tepehuan has -i as an absolutive suffix, so maybe it’s a loanword from a Pimic language? Except none of the Pimic languages have a word for ‘deer’ resembling mahói.

Maybe this is not a Uto-Aztecan word at all, but a wanderwort. But it’s not satisfying to just assume a wanderwort without being able to prove where it originated or how it spread. There are apparently other similar-ish words in other north American languages, like Proto-Algonquian *mo·swa, but I don’t know much about that.

Inic ontlamantli.

Hopi for ‘rabbit’ is taavo. Hopi CVVCV roots may reflect either *CVCV or *CVCCV, but the -v- tells us it must have been *tapo, since the presence of a consonant (*taCpo) would have led to the p being preserved (×taapo). Probably.

Mayo taabu agrees with Hopi in everything but the final vowel, which is a minor issue.

Nahuatl tōchi-n ~ tōch-tli could then be from *tapo/*tapu with the diminutive suffix *-ci. This development is paralleled by *napo/*napu ‘prickly pear cactus’ → Hopi naavu, Mayo naabo, Nahuatl nōchtli. (Except this time Hopi has the u and Mayo has the o..)

So far so good.

Tarahumara has rohuí, which is not expected and maybe not cognate. tr is regular, apoohuí is not. (C.f. napí ‘prickly pear cactus’.)

Tohono O’odham has to:bĭ. Not only is this not the expected reflex of *tapo/*tapu, it doesn’t match the Tarahumara either, despite looking very similar. Tohono O’odham b reflects *kʷ; if it were cognate with the Tarahumara it should have g instead.

Pima Bajo and Southeastern Tepehuan, which are Pimic languages like Tohono O’odham, have tɔ·b and too’m, respectively, which are regular. But Northern Tepehuan, in the same small family, has toóxi, for some reason. That could almost be cognate with Nahuatl tōch-tli, if it came from *toci instead of *tapu-ci, though the vowel length doesn’t match. (Pimic vowel length is normally the reverse of Nahuatl.)

Cora has tátziu’u and Huichol has tásiu. These could also maybe be cognate with Nahuatl, assuming some sort of crazy metathesis from something like *tauʔ-ci. But it would be harder to make this cognate with *tapu/*tapo, since *p is reflected as h in these languages, and the glottal stop would need an explanation.

Finally we look at Tübatulabal, which is unusually conservative in that it preserves some coda consonants which have been lost in most other Uto-Aztecan languages.

The Tübatulabal word for ‘rabbit’ is tahpun-t. And that just raises more questions.

Tübatulabal h normally reflects *k. If tahpun-t is cognate with Hopi taavo (and it looks like it is), we’d have to revise the assumption that only intervocalic *p lenited, while *p was preserved when preceded by a consonant. Apparently *k (or whatever consonant it was) was lost with compensatory lengthening when followed by *p, prior to the lenition of the latter.

And then, maybe *kp developed into *kʷ in pre-Pimic, which regularly became b along with original *kʷ? But then what’s up with those vowels?

Who knows.

Inic etlamantli.

Words for ‘tooth’ seem to be consistent across northern Uto-Aztecan. Tübatulabal taman-t, Southern Paiute taŋʷam-pi, and Hopi tama all point to *taman.

Southern Uto-Aztecan on the other hand is not consistent, either with northern UA or within itself. Mayo has tammi; Cora has tamé (e); Northern Tepehuan has taa~támu-i. It’s consistent in that they all point to *tamVn (except possibly Huichol), but there are reflexes with each of four out of the five UA vowels.

That will have to do for now. I had more things to write about but the more I think about them the less I want to write about them.


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