4

The East Asian languages do not distinguish r and l. The PIE had r/l alternation in suffixes: -tlom/-trom, -dhlom/-dhrom, -ter/-tel, -ros/-los.

What can be said in this context about Afro-Asiatic branch?

2
  • 2
    Only a minority of languages of East and Southeast Asia, including Ainu, the Japonic languages, and the Hmong-Mien languages, do not distinguish between an /l/-like and /r/-like phoneme. Most other languages of East and Southeast Asia do, including Nivkh, the Tibeto-Burman, Koreanic, Turkic, Tungusic, Mongolic, Austroasiatic, and Austronesian languages. – limetom Apr 23 '16 at 18:19
  • Semitic languages definitely do distinguish /r/ vs. /l/, and I believe the same is true of the other Afro-Asiatic branches. – TKR Apr 23 '16 at 22:56
1

With the possible exception of Ancient Egyptian where no grapheme for "l" existed, the r/l distinction seems to be well-maintained in the Afroasiatic languages. It exists in Semitic, Berber, Chadic, and Cushitic. Also the Coptic language has it.

3
  • What is the reflex of Proto-Afro-Asiatic *l in Ancient Egyptian? – brass tacks Apr 30 '16 at 19:47
  • @sumelic: Don't know about Proto-Afro-Asiatic, but Ancient Egyptian used r or n when a letter l was expected. I am not sure whether this is just an artefact of the writing system or genuine–a closer look on Koptic may help. – jk - Reinstate Monica May 1 '16 at 19:25
  • Thanks! I should have checked Wikipedia (it suggests that /l/ was genuinely pronounced at some point, but lost in some dialects). – brass tacks May 1 '16 at 19:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.