Volume 37, No.1 - Spring 1991
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas, University of Rochester
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright 1990 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.


Defense Language Institute

In a previous article1 I said that only Baltic and Tokharian had lost all traces of aspiration in native forms via glottalization. In a more recent article2 I said that Slavic and Albanian, unlike Baltic, had, in a special way, restored aspiration. Here I shall show in more detail how, starting right after Very Late Proto-lndo-European, the emerging dialects which were to become Baltic developed differently from those which were to become Slavic.

In Very Late Proto-lndo-European, the excessive aspiration which had been blurring the distinction between voiced and voiceless stops was being eliminated by glottalization. The laryngeals were beginning to be affected by this, too. Some had been eliminated in initial position which made the vowel a a phoneme. The resulting sound system where stops were aspirated allo but glottalized phonemically was as follows:

Eventually most dialects eliminated aspiration more from one series of stops than from the other. Pre-lndic, Pre-Greek, Pre-ltalic, and Pre-Celtic removed it more from voiceless stops while Pre-lranian, Pre-Armenian, Pre-Hittite, and Pre-Germanic removed it more from voiced stops.3 Pre-Baltic, Pre-Slavic, and Pre-Albanian, in the central position bordered by dialects of both types, eliminated aspiration from both voiceless and voiced stops.

A specialist, even agreeing with my assessment of Pre-Prussian as having delabialized H3 and o to H2 and a, might come up with the following misleading representation of the resulting Early Pre-Baltic, Early Pre-Slavic and Early Pre-Albanian sound system with H3 and o in parentheses to indicate their absence from Pre-Prussian.4

It misleads because it suggests far more unity than there was. The critical difference between Early Pre-Baltic and the two variants of the other central dialect, Early Pre-Slavic and Early Pre-Albanian, was not then noticeable in the inventory of phonemes themselves, but in the presence versus absence of one of their combinational possibilities. Early Pre-Slavic-Early Pre-Albanian retained both initial sk- and initial ks-. Early Pre-Baltic allowed only initial sk-. It had metathesized ks- to sk-. (And noting sk-, not *k-, we see a very early, pre-ruki law change which we can attribute to this very early state of Pre-Baltic.) On hearing one another talk, the speakers of these different dialects might only have been amused by the resulting "mispronunciation" of certain words: "They say *ksoudos, we say *skoudos (or *skaudas)!" But this difference in sequencing was going to have important results.

I attribute this difference in sequencing between Early Pre-Baltic and Early Pre-Slavic-Early Pre-Albanian to a difference in degree of glottalization, that is, ultimately, of the checking of aspiration. Early Pre-Baltic was more heavily glottalized. It was more set against aspiration. Therefore, as one device for inhibiting a change of s to h (this change now a common development in Indo-European languages), Early Pre-Baltic metathesized ks- to sk-. Here k, near the point of articulation of glottalization had a similar function of inhibiting the aspiration of s to h.

We must keep the early coincidence of deaspiration of both voiceless and voiced stops in Early Pre-Baltic and Early Pre-Slavic-Early Pre-Albanian in perspective. Some, if not most of it arose through the accommodation which their respective speakers were making to speakers of dialects initially deaspirating only voiced stops and to speakers of those initially deaspirating only voiceless ones. So none of this agreement points necessarily to a single dialect. It could have all been coincidental. Far more critical was the fact that Early Pre-Slavic-Early Pre-Albanian was less glottalized enough to retain the initial combination ks-. It had a means which Early Pre-Baltic lacked to restore aspiration (i.e., from initial ks-) in a new phoneme, h, after the laryngeals had disappeared. And this is what happened. Pre-Baltic avoided this in non-initial position through morphophonemic, often, syllabic division:-k + -s(-).

Once the laryngeals vanished, and with them the glottalized stops, differences in phonemic inventory became apparent as the following charts show with o, o in parentheses to show their absence from Pre-Prussian and z in parentheses to show its allophonic status.

Before this disappearance of the laryngeals had happened, with merely allophonic aspiration removed from all non-glottalized stops and with no regard for the difference in sequencing possibilities of initial sk- and ks-, it might have seemed that Baltic and Slavic had come from the same Indo-European dialect as Meillet had put it.5

But this coincidence in allophonic distribution together with the relative geographic position of Pre-Baltic and Pre-Slavic-Pre-Albanian merely allows us to label this particular band of dialects as the "Central Dialectal Continuum of Laryngeal-Glottalic Indo-European."

After this disappearance of the laryngeals had happened, it became clear that Baltic and Slavic could not have come from the same Indo-European dialect at all, despite deceptive similarities. Something had to have existed throughout Pre-Baltic alone which prevented the restoration of an aspirated phoneme, h, after the disappearance of the laryngeals. Ultimately, this was glottalization whose early excessiveness was confined to one dialectal continuum alone, the Pre-Baltic one, to which Pre-Slavic had simply never belonged at all.

Matching the deceptive deaspirating similarities between Early Pre-Baltic and Early Pre-Slavic-Early Pre-Albanian we find the deceptive coincidence in the loss of all trace of aspiration in only Baltic and Tokharian. We might, in our turn, be tempted to conclude that Baltic and Tokharian came from the same excessively glottalizing Indo-European dialect. But did they? Did the Baltic and Tokharian apparently thorough deaspirations arise through an identical process indicating a common, exclusive origin? They did not. Other results in the stops indicate entirely different processes leading to the same results in deaspiration.

Tokharian stops (only p, t, k) compared with those of other Indo-European languages indicate a relatively late completion of total deaspiration initiated by excessive glottalization. Baltic evidence indicates the opposite, relatively early one. Strong aspiration in Pre-Tokharian must have continued long enough to have blurred all or most voiced/voiceless distinctions in its stops before glottalization finally eliminated aspiration. Thus Pre-Tokharian obstruents before the loss of all aspiration which in turn resulted in the loss of all glottalization must have been as follows:

Pre-Baltic was never like that.

Pre-Baltic in its late satemized stage had the following system of obstruents. Note how it compared with the late satemized one of Pre-Slavic-Pre-Albanian with allophones in pharentheses (, = ruki law reflexes and reflexes of s assimilated to , . Much, much later, in Middle Common Slavic, one of these ruki law reflexes is x which now occurs after i, u, r, and even k, not just in initial position, as was surely the case much earlier).6

The shifts into Proto-Baltic versus Proto-Slavic and Proto-Albanian involving the assibilation of the palatals followed patterns set by the results of the different degrees of glottalization. Proto-Baltic's drift was going to be different. And this was true only because it had no h and did not allow the initial sequencing of ks-, all results of excessive glottalization. Note also that at this point (Pre-) Albanian with reflexes an, am, n, m for syllabic nasals , , , already had been diverging from (Pre-)Slavic with un/in, um/im, n/n, m/m.7 Still, its drift in the development of Indo-European compact obstruents k, g, h, , continued to match that of Slavic.

Indo-European , tended to become t, d in all three protolanguages. In Proto-Baltic alone t, d tended immediately to become , especially in initial position. This conformed with the condition of no initial ks-, a stop, any stop, followed by a fricative, set by previous excessive glottalization. In Proto-Baltic, Proto-Slavic, and Proto-Albanian (t), (d) alternated with, probably, palatalized k', g' (which eventually became k, g). And these in turn, alternated with old k, g. But there was one big difference. Proto-Baltic had no h because of Pre-Baltic's excessive glottalization.

The other languages had the velar h which each, with similar drift, paired with palatalized h' from different, individual sources which was part of the pattern of sharp/plain (palatalized/non-palatalized) velars. Proto-Slavic's first h' probably came from k' (from Pre-Slavic, Indo-European ) in the word for 'cold' *h*old- as an expressive form. Others came later, some from s as expressive forms. The word for 'lame', xrom-, might in originally changed form, have been either *h'rom- with palatalized h' or *hrom- with non-palatalized h. Proto-Albanian probably built its h/h' opposition on new velar aspirates from new initial ks- from metathesized sk- as in *khol-/*kh'wl-, *kh'il-(which became *hhol-/*kel-, *kil-, and later *hol-/*tel-, *til-).8 Albanian evidence, h to s before front vowels, suggests that Slavic's first palatalization of the velars might have started with x(h) to before front vowels and spread from there as a class phenomenon in both languages to the stops with k, g, to t, d in the early stages.

While Baltic , from (t), (d) from lndo-European , merged with , from the ruki law,9 Slavic and Albanian compact t, d from this , became diffuse ts, dz to oppose new t, d from their respective first palatalizations of the velars k, g before front vowels (which are now , i.e., t, in Slavic and s, z in Albanian).10 When Albanian new t, d became strident (to avoid any sort of merger with t from k from kh' from ks- plus front vowel), old strident ts, dz from Indo-European , became mellow tth, ddh. While tth simplified to th, ddh split into d, dh which are now variant reflexes of Indo-European .11 Slavic affricates ts, dz from Indo-European , became fricatives s, z after the second and third palatalization of the velars k, g to t, d. This was done to prevent merger of old and new mellow t, d. With strident, diffuse ts, dz simplified to s, z, new second and third palatalization mellow t, d redefined as diffuse could now be opposed to old first palatalization mellow t, d which remained compact and is thus noted as t (= ), d )= , later simplified to ). There now was room for this with the number of diffuse affricates reduced to one (mellow) series.12

Further changes in form and distribution of ruki law reflexes in Slavic and Albanian will not be discussed here. As for the Baltic joint ruki law-palatal reflexes, other evidence of them is available with insert -k-, -g- (Latvian pìrksts versus Lithuanian pitas 'finger', etc.). These -k-, -g- were, I believe, inserted to mark these reflexes and keep them separate from s, z from original non-ruke law s (especially needed in Latvian and Prussian where they, the joint reflexes, had changed from mellow , to strident s z). It was these -k-, -g- which had helped maintain the integrity, that is, the original shape, more or less, of the Baltic syllable. This, I believe, was the major reason that the Baltic languages stayed conservative versus the innovations of Slavic and Albanian. And mainly the influence of Baltic prevented Slavic from becoming a lot more innovative.

We have seen that subtle differences have been more important than deceptive similarities. The lack of aspiration in native forms in Tokharian and Baltic is a deception. It points to no real special common prototype. The early agreement of Pre-Baltic, Pre-Slavic, and Pre-Albanian on deaspirated stops is another deception. It, in its turn, points to no special common prototype. It is completely overriden by the distribution of only initial sk- to Pre-Baltic versus both sk- and ks- to Pre-Slavic and Pre-Albanian. This means that not only was Pre-Baltic merely more glottalized at the beginning, but also it was, because of this different beginning, bound to continue having a development different from Pre-Slavic's. For its part, Pre-Slavic with Pre-Albanian-like starting conditions had a development which, for a long time, was parallel to that of Pre-Albanian, most likely, its closest relative.

Noting the above, can anyone validly persist in believing in a so-called "Balto-Slavic" protolanguage?

1 Mayer, Harvey E. 'Aspiration and Native Baltic Forms'. Lituanus. 34.2.5-18.1988. There I say that once aspiration disappears, glottalization does, too.
2 .'Slavic, a Balticized Albanian?' 1988. To appear in Lituanus.
3 Iranian has f, Θ, x from p, t, k plus laryngeal. Hittite has -pp-, -tt-, -kk- which indicate a tense, and, therefore, aspirated pronunciation. Neither language matches these extensive phenomena in a voiced counterparts. Irish has b from g"W versus g from g(h)W. Only aspiration could have prevented the reflex of g(h)W from merging with that of g"W. No matching example exists with reflexes of k"W and k(h)W. Note that in most Indo-European languages reflex differences between aspirated/non-aspirated stops are now phonemic where once they had been merely allophonic.
4 See Mayer, 'Prussian, an Aboriginal 3-Language?' and 'Toward Reconstructing a Proto-Baltic Phonological System', to appear in Lituanus. There and in 'Was Slavic a Prussian Dialect?'. Lituanus. 33.2.5-21,1987, I am reluctant to accept a special genetic Baltic unity. With similar caution I speak here, for the sake of convenience, of a "Proto-Baltic continuum". Since the delabialization of H3 to H2 preceded the deaspiration of stops, Pre-Prussian, from the start, seems to have differed fundamentally from Pre-Lithuanian and Pre-Latvian.
5 Meillet, Antoine. Les dialectes indoeuropéens. Paris. 1908.
6 Contrary to popular opinion, I see no need to assume a simultaneous, uniform primary development of ruki law reflexes in all positions in (Pre-)Slavic and (Pre-)Albanian. Slavic initial ruki law x- comes originally only from ks-. Slavic medial ruki law x comes also from is, us, rs. These added sources plus any shifting syllabic boundaries (e.g., -ks- + -to -k- + -s-) might well have combined to retard the change of medial ruki law s to x. Initial ks-, subject to none of this, most likely, went directly to x(h) first. This was so because initial k- tended to be more heavily aspirated. Note the examples of Slavic x- versus Lithuanian k- from Indo-European k-: xobof/kabti, xljabat'/klebti, chrastiti/kremsti, xritati sja/kritti, xoteti/ketti given by Herbert Bruer in Slavische Sprachwissenschaft, 184. Berlin. 1961. Incidentally, in Middle Common Slavic k before x, most likely, disappeared.
7 Mayer, 'Slavic... '
8 These are transitional stages of *ksol-/*ksel-, ksil- (from *skol-/*skel-, skil-) to Modern Albanian halë 'cinder, chaff', çl, çil (Gheg) 'I open', words connected with Lithuanian skélti 'split', skìlti 'split off'.
9 Note the same in Lithuanian virùs 'top' from s after r and ìs 'this' from Indo-European .
10 At this point Slavic *tsirn, now Russian serna 'chamois' was borrowed into Baltic and immediately, via a metathesizing pattern set in Pre-Baltic with initial ks- to sk-, became *stirn 'deer' which is now stìrna in Lithuanian and stina in Latvian.
11 Çabej, Eqrem. Hyrje në historinë e gjuhës shqipe. 251. Tiranë. 1975.
12 Slavic s, z and Albanian th, dh/d, reflexes of IndoEuropean palatals, represent one general simplification of dental clusters.