The outcome of Romance velar palatalization in French depends on the voicing of the consonant: Lat. ankilla → OFr. [antsele] but Lat. argilla → OFr. [ardʒile]. This is also reflected in words borrowed into English ("cent" with [s], "gentle" with [dʒ]). Is there any other language where historically or synchronically, the place of articulation of only one of /tʃ, dʒ/ changes. Framed more generally, where else does voicing affect place of articulation in alveopalatals? Either sound changes or synchronic rules are relevant.

  • 2
    Putting this in a comment since it didn't involve alveopalatals, but Old Japanese had #p > f (> h) and VpV > w (> ∅) while /b/ was kept intact, probably owing to its prenasalisation. Jan 18, 2019 at 9:07

6 Answers 6


I don't think it's at all common for alveolopalatal and/or sibilant consonants to undergo place changes that are directly conditioned by the presence or absence of voicing: French doesn't actually seem to be an example of this (see below) and I can't think of any actual examples, except for the disputed case of Proto-Semitic *z, which if pronounced [z] may have evolved differently from its voiced counterpart [s] in some Semitic languages.

I think that it's more likely for voice to act as the condition for a change in manner of articulation, which in turn conditions a change in place of articulation. French, Greg Lee's example of rhotacism, and amegnunsen's example of Zenete [ʃ] and [j]/[ʒ] all look compatible with "two-part" sound changes like that. ("Two-part" in theoretical, not necessarily chronological terms.)

Analyzing the French example

I have the impression that the difference between the French reflexes of Latin* and wasn't due to a change [t͡ʃ, d͡ʒ] > [t͡s, d͡ʒ], but rather because Latin developed a sibilant pronunciation earlier than : the data seems consistent with first passing through a stage where it was lenited to something like [j~ʝ] in all contexts, and then syllable-initial [j~ʝ] was fortited to [d͡ʒ], presumably after the voiceless sound had already been fronted to [t͡s].

That at least is what the Wikipedia article "Phonological History of French" says, although it doesn't have many citations.

So it might be something like [anˈkɪlla], [arˈgiːla] > [anˈcel-], [arˈɟi-] > [anˈcel-], [arˈʝi-] > [anˈt͡ʃel-], [arˈʝi-] > [anˈt͡sel-], [arˈʝi-] > [anˈt͡sel-], [arˈd͡ʒi-].

Compare words like singe, linge where the "g" comes from Latin "i" or "e".

Voiced and voiceless palatalized consonants in other Romance

Standard Italian has [t͡s~t͡sː] as the usual outcome of Latin [t] + [j], but Latin [d] + [j] has a double reflex: it is [d͡z] after consonants, but often [d͡ʒː] intervocalically. I think the difference in place between [t͡s~t͡sː] and [d͡ʒː] here is likewise based on an intermediate stage where [dj] was fully assimilated to [jj], which was then fortited to [d͡ʒː].

I found a discussion where it is mentioned that [d͡ʒ] is also a possible outcome of intervocalic [tj] in Italian: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Wiktionary:Etymology_scriptorium/2016/August#mezzo_and_raggio

Somewhat similarly, in Spanish, intervocalic or word-initial palatalized g either turned to [ʝ] or was lost, while palatalized g after a consonant became Old Spanish [d͡z].

While the details are different between French, Spanish, and Italian, we generally see that processes of lenition can affect when and how palatalized segments develop into fricatives or affricates. And lenition often affects voiced and voiceless consonants differently.

Greek dialect fronting of velars/palatals

TKR's answer mentioned Greek, which is a language that has shown various forms of palatalization, fronting or affrication.

There is some discussion of variations of the development of fronted consonants from historical velars in modern Greek varieties in "Velar Fronting in Modern Greek Dialects", by Io Manolessou and Nikolaos Pantelidis.

Table 1 shows some specific examples that indicate that fronting of ɣ to a sibilant is less common in Greek than fronting of k or g (g is historically from /nk/ or /ng/) to sibilant affricates. This seems like it might be relevant to the situation with French. The table also indicates a few Greek dialects that are supposed to have a sibilant affricate realization for the voiceless but not the voiced plosive, but I don't know the exact situation with these.

(Pronouncing "velars" as nonsibilant palatals before front vowels is extremely common: it's mandatory in standard Greek, and the paper says that exceptional dialectal forms are "rare").

Semitic [z] and [s]? [g] and [k]?

The history of fricatives in Semitic languages seems to be unclear and disputed, but there definitely have been some place changes. Depending on what viewpoint you take, voiced "z" may not have behaved the same as its voiceless counterpart. This seems like anything but a clear example, as the place of articulation of the Proto-Semitic voiceless sibilants is disputed, and there are also arguments about which, if any, of the sibilants were actually affricates.

Another odd thing about voicing and POA in Semitic is the unconditional fronting of *g but not *k in standard Arabic, although there are other developments of these sounds in Arabic dialects.


*In this answer, I use the symbols and to represent the sounds that in Latin were spelled as c or g before a front vowel. They aren't meant to be IPA transcriptions of the exact phonetic quality, which might have been something that would better be represented by some other symbols, e.g. [c] and [ɟ].


Not quite parallel but at least similarly asymmetrical: in Ancient Greek, *ky > [tt] / [ss] depending on dialect, while *gy > [zd] / [dz]. Presumably both went through an affricate stage of some kind.

I wonder if the French situation has to do with the lesser cross-linguistic frequency of [dz] vs. [ts].


Another Ancient Greek example is the treatment of Proto-Indo-European labiovelars before /i/. The voiceless labiovelar *kʷ became dental /t/, while the voiced *gʷ became labial /b/:

  • *kʷis 'who' > τίς
  • *gʷíh₃os 'life' > βίος

(Apparently the voiced aspirated labiovelar *gʷʰ also went to a labial, but this actually runs counter to the pattern above because voiced aspirates were devoiced in Greek preceding this change, so the development would have been *gʷʰ > *kʷʰ > *pʰ. But there's only one example of this so it isn't really clear.)

Based on inscriptional and dialectal evidence, this change went through an alveopalatal stage, so it's very close to your French example of /tʃ, dʒ/ ending up in different POAs based on voicing.

  • @JanusBahsJacquet You're right -- I was extrapolating from Chantraine which is of course out of date. Correcting. According to Beekes though there's no *u̯ in the word -- he gives *gʷíh₃os.
    – TKR
    Apr 20, 2020 at 17:30
  • Ah yes, sorry, the u̯ is only really necessarily for the suffix-accented adjective, not the root-accented noun. Apr 20, 2020 at 18:26

In Berber, it is supposed diachronically that some varieties, named Zenete, changed the sounds *k and *g respectively by [ʃ] and [j]/[ʒ] (see Kossmann 1999).

Palatalisation affects also laterals. In Riffian, *lː is become [ʤː]. In other Berber languages, it is the simple lateral that has evolved into [j]/[dz] (Kabyle) or [ʒ] (Middle Atlas/ Mauritania). This feature also is present in Romance languages.

It should notice also that, in synchrony, in Zenete languages, some geminated palatalised consonants do not stay palatale consonants, but are plosive. For example:

ujur (*ugur)




  • Is the reference Essai sur la phonologie du proto-berbère?
    – user6726
    Jan 17, 2019 at 21:51
  • @user6726 Yes, it is.
    – amegnunsen
    Jan 18, 2019 at 6:41

Rhotacization of z (not s) in Germanic, Latin (honos, honoris). This is pursuant to the Law of Similarity, according to which sounds which are most similar to their surrounding sounds are the first to be affected by a change. In this case, the change is from obstruent (z) to sonorant when the obstruent has the same voicing as surrounding sounds (vowels, which are both sonorant and voiced).


Spanish shifted Latin /f/ to /h/ but /v/ to /β/, ending up at different points of articulation. The Celtic branch of Indogermanic shifted *p to nothing, but kept b and bh in place.

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