[Histling-l] excrescence by regular rule?

Geoffrey Nathan geoffnathan at wayne.edu
Wed Sep 13 22:31:23 EDT 2017

Just to pile on here, there are numerous cases in English as well, although I don't know whether these epenthetic stops are 'regular' or just frequent. But we have inserted 'b's in:

crumble, bumble, bramble, fumble, jumble, tumble, mumble and nimble (source: World Wide Words)

and probably more. 

And, of course, there are the epenthetic voiceless stops in 'Hampstead, hamster, spinster, Springsteen...'. These are non-systematic in that some of them are orthographic, (Hampstead), some are regular but not spelled (I don't think anyone says 'hamster' without a /p/ ), but some are probably variable ('Chomsky', for example). T

here's a small phonological literature on how and whether the fleeting [p] is phonologized or not (I think Bruce Hayes wrote on this but it's too late at night to look it up).


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From: histling-l-bounces at mailman.yale.edu <histling-l-bounces at mailman.yale.edu> on behalf of Alex Francois <alex.francois.cnrs at gmail.com>
Sent: Wednesday, September 13, 2017 6:08 PM
To: Martha Ratliff
Cc: histling-l at mailman.yale.edu
Subject: Re: [Histling-l] excrescence by regular rule?

​​dear Martha, dear all,

> I had always thought of excrescence as a sound change that operates on individual words in an unpredictable fashion
I think such processes of epenthesis are often quite  regular, and easily explained.  
In the examples you cite, consonant epenthesis (I haven't heard the term "excrescence") result from a simple rule whereby a nasal consonant is denasalised when it comes  in contact with a non-nasal consonant, e.g. *mr > *mbr;  *nr > *ndr...

Such processes are very regular indeed in Indo-European.  Old French has inherited many forms from Latin which underwent a syncope, resulting in consonant epenthesis  between the consonants now in contact.  Here are a few examples:

Fr. sembler < Lat. *sim(i)lāre    ‘seem’
ensemble < *in-sim(u)l        ‘together’

trembler < *trem(u)lāre        ‘shiver’ 
combler < *cum(u)lāre          ‘fill up’

chambre < *cam(e)ra          ‘room’
nombre < *num(e)rum        ‘number’
Eng. remember < O.Fr. remembrer < Late Lat. *re-mem(o)rāre

cendre < *cin(e)rem        ‘ashes’
tendre < *ten(e)rum      ‘tender,  soft’
pondre < *pōn(e)re       ‘lay  (egg)’
coudre < *cōs(e)re < consuere       ‘sew’  
moudre < mol(e)re        ‘grind’  
poudre < *polre < *pulvere    ‘dust,  powder’ 


(​NB:  after I wrote this, I just realised Matthieu's post, who also cites some examples of Romance.)    

See also Greek 
 ἀνήρ /anēr/ 'man', 
genitive ἀνδρός /andr-os/ < *anr-os
Μεσημβρία /mes-ēmbria/ 'mid-day, South' < *mes-ēmr-ia 
(cf. ἡμέρα *hēméra 'day')
ἄμβροτος /ambrotos/ 'immortal' < *a-mro-to-s < *n̻-mr̻-t-o-s  [cf. Skr अमृत amṛta]
(hence Eng. ambrosia)

Finally, the phenomenon is also known in the Oceanic languages of Vanuatu where I work.  In Malakula (an island with 42  different languages!) it is common to find languages whose phoneme inventories include two prenasalised trills. Phonologically, these are:
 an alveolar trill /ⁿr/
a bilabial trill /ᵐʙ/

Quite expectedly, the phonetic realisation of these two phonemes is respectively [ndr] and [mbʙ].  Try them at home:  I find it difficult  to pronounce sequences /nr/ and /mʙ/ without inserting these transitional sounds.   :-) 


​ _________
Alex François

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On 13 September 2017 at 20:46, Martha Ratliff  <ac6000 at wayne.edu> wrote:

Does anyone know of a reconstruction in which someone has posited a regular change involving insertion of a consonant between two other consonants?  I had always thought of excrescence as a sound change that operates on individual words  in an unpredictable fashion (that is, the low-level transitional consonant is phonologized unpredictably), but am wondering if there are cases where someone believes it to have operated in a regular, rule-governed fashion to an entire set of words.
I am especially interested in insertions of the “thimble”/“hombre” type, but would be interested in examples of the “Hampshire” type as well. 
Many thanks in advance!
Martha Ratliff
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