It is well known that consonant lenition or weakening tends to be far more common cross-linguistically than the opposite process called fortition or strengthening. Now, some languages have been considered as having undergone the historical change of affricates to plosives. Here's a list of examples I've been able to collect so far:

  • Proto-Samoyedic */t͡ʃ/ → Kamassian /t/
  • Proto-Yeniseian */t͡ʃ/ → Proto-Ket-Yugh */t/
  • Proto-Yeniseian */d͡ʒ/ → Proto-Ket-Yugh */d/

Thus, my question is:

What other languages can be shown to have undergone similar affricate-to-plosive fortition?

And, quite naturally, another related question arises here: Do the languages with affricate fortition cluster areally? At least, Yeniseian and Samoyedic have been neighbours for some time, and their proximity might explain why some of them share this peculiar change.

Contrary to what some, though not all, Yeniseists say, namely that Yeniseian has been rather immune to (mainly lexical) influences from its neighbours, areal patterning like this (if areal indeed), could suggest possible further directions for future research. In fact, the two groups seem to share other fortition paths as well: fricativeplosive (with affricate as a possible intermediary step). But for the time being, I'd really like to know what else one could find about affricate-to-plosive changes world-wide.

I'll be extremely grateful for any other examples from some other languages, or references to relevant literature discussing them. Many thanks in advance!

  • How do you know the affricate-to-plosive changes are fortitions?
    – Greg Lee
    Aug 23, 2015 at 21:17
  • @GregLee Good point! In fact, this is another thing I'm not entirely sure about, because we always deal with reconstructed phonemes and merely hypothetical phonetics. On the other hand, whether we consider this type of changes cases of lenition or fortition (and I can imagine they may be both depending on the particulars), they seem to be rare anyway. Even if we consider English [tʰ] → [t͡s] as a case of fortition (which I'm not comfortable with on articulatory/aerodynamic grounds), it's still seems to be the other direction that's rare. But thanks anyway, I'll amend my question later. Aug 23, 2015 at 21:44
  • @GregLee As to the above-mentioned, but as yet unexplained, reasons for how I feel about the English case, I think may be more difficult to achieve the articulatory target without an accompanying affrication, especially with tense stops such as the aspirated ones. Affrication, on the other hand, requires nothing but loosening the occlusion a bit during the second phase of the consonant. Sure, I'd assume affrication to be more common in palatals and velars than dentals due to the much larger mass of one's dorsum that needs to be controlled. Also, [t͡s] is not the same thing as /t͡s/. Aug 23, 2015 at 22:03
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    Hm. Before I read this question, I would have guessed that these kind of changes are less likely than something like [tʲ] > [t] in one branch and [tʲ] > [t͡ʃ] in another. As you say, since these are reconstructions it's tough to know the phonetic details of the ancestral sounds. I know in reconstructions of Greek, I've seen [ts] proposed as an ancestor to what becomes [tː] in some dialects and [sː] in others... Aug 23, 2015 at 22:05
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    But ultimately, the source of this is a former cluster [tj], so it seems to me at least possible that the dialects with [tː] never even had an affricate, but possibly just a development like [tj] > [tʲː] > [tː]. TKR’s answer here discusses this sound change: linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/13097/… Aug 23, 2015 at 22:05

1 Answer 1


I can only remember the Boeotian, Elean, Laconian and Cretan dialects of Ancient Greek which had -δδ- instead of -ζ-, although it's debatable what -ζ- actually represented in those dialects originally (before the phonetical shift): [zd] or [dz] (it can be related to [tj] > [ts] / [t:] mentioned in the comments)

Also, Bulgarian/Czech/Slovak had [štš] > [št] (including where [štš] stems from [s] + [tš], basically making [tš] > [t]), whereas Russian, for example, had [štš] > [šš] > [š:] but it's probably not what you want (not an independent shift, needs triggering).

The sound changes you mention remind me of borrowings from, say, English into phonetically primitive creoles which lack even the most basic sounds like [s]. There, various affricates would be borrowed as [t] or [k] (if present). For example, Japanese mochi > Hawaian [mo:ki:], English ginger > Hawaiian kinika. I don't know anything about Eniseian languages, but can't the changes you mention actually hint at some sort of creolization?

Sorry but nothing else comes to my mind.

  • Thank you, Carsten. Yes: I'd see [štš] → [št] as a dissimilation rather than an independent shift. And no: as far as I know, Yeniseian languages do not seem to show any of the typical Creol_ish_ traits: there seem to be relatively few loanwords from neighbours (though maybe some old borrowings might be discovered once we've learnt more about their historical phonology), highly complex morphology with numerous opaque structures, and Ket and Yugh are tonal, with full tonal characteristics present in mono- and disyllables only. I'm not aware of any evidence of creolization in Yeniseian languages. Aug 24, 2015 at 20:05

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