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Gradient dissimilation in Mongolian: Implications for diachrony

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This paper explores the implications of ‘gradient dissimilation’ (Jatteau & Hejná 2016) for the diachronic implementation of dissimilation. Since this sound change is usually considered as typically sporadic, lexically regular cases should result from lexical diffusion. In contrast with this assumption, we explore the hypothesis that gradient dissimilation may represent the phonetic precursor of completed, regular dissimilatory processes. Such cases of dissimilation might then be reanalysed as Neogrammarian types of change. To assess this question, we gather and analyse new data from Halh Mongolian, a language reported to show gradient dissimilation (Svantesson et al. 2005), and compare it to two completed patterns of dissimilation reconstructed within the Mongolic family: Mongolian Chahar and Monguor. The results suggest that the gradient dissimilation in Halh may represent the phonetic precursor of Chahar, and maybe also of Monguor. The main problem resides in the behaviour of /s/, which in our data does not pattern as expected with the aspirated stops.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPapers in Historical Phonology
Pages (from-to)28-75
Number of pages48
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

ISSN 2399-6714 (Online)
PiHPh is hosted by the University of Edinburgh

    Research areas

  • aspiration dissimilation, Mongolian, sound change, post-aspiration, pre-aspiration, breathiness

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