[Histling-l] excrescence by regular rule?

Paolo Ramat paoram at unipv.it
Thu Sep 14 05:00:40 EDT 2017

Alex François has rightly quote the OGr. ex.
ἀνήρ /anēr/ 'man',
genitive ἀνδρός /andr-os/ < *anr-os
Note that along with  Nom.Pl. àndres we have also ané:res (and also Gen.Sg. 
anéros, Dat.Sg. anéri, etc. ). This proves that the phonetic rule of 
consonant insertion may be overruled by a paradigm regularization rule
(in this case on the basis of Nom. Sg. ἀνήρ /anēr/).


Prof.Paolo Ramat
Università di Pavia (retired)
Istituto Universitario di Studi Superiori (IUSS Pavia, retired)
Societas Linguist. Europ., Honorary Member

Piazzetta Arduino 11
I – 27100 Pavia
##39 347 044 98 44 (port.)
##39 0382 27 0 27 (home)

-----Messaggio originale----- 
From: Geoffrey Nathan
Sent: Thursday, September 14, 2017 4:31 AM
To: Alex Francois ; Martha Ratliff
Cc: histling-l at mailman.yale.edu
Subject: Re: [Histling-l] excrescence by regular rule?

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).


Geoffrey S. Nathan
WSU Information Privacy Officer (Retired)
Emeritus Professor, Linguistics Program

geoffnathan at wayne.edu

Nobody at Wayne State will EVER ask you for your password. Never send it to 
anyone in an email, no matter how authentic the email  looks.

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 
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 

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 
(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

Directeur, LACITO-CNRS,  France
Australian  National University, Canberra
Academia  page – Personal  homepage
Les  Carnets du LaCiTO
​Prochainement  au LaCiTOOn 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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