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If the Armenian word for "foot", "otn", really comes from PIE *podm, why did the 'p' disappear? Why didn't it change into 'h', like in "hing" (five, from *penkwe) or "hair" (father, from *ph2ter) or "hur" (fire, from *peh2wr)?

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    To be clear, it's pronounced with an initial v-, at least in modern Armenian. So not totally clear that it disappeared. Apr 22, 2023 at 21:53

2 Answers 2

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What we see in otn isn't *p- > ∅, which isn't a rule in Armenian, but *po- > o-, which probably is. Some comparanda to support this: ordi 'child' and ortʿ 'calf', both from the o-grade of the root *per- also seen in Greek πόρτις 'calf', Latin pariō 'to birth'; probably orot 'thunder' from a different root *per- also seen in Russian перун 'thunderbolt', Sanskrit पर्जन्य parjánya 'raincloud'; possibly ors 'hunt, catch' next to Greek πόρκος 'a kind of fishing trap' or, in a different view, Latin porcus 'pig' (Martirosyan rejects both of these and instead connects Greek δορκάς/ζορκάς 'roe deer' < *i̭orḱ-).
Otn is from PIE *podm̥, the accusative of the root noun, but Armenian actually also has a reflex of the thematic noun *pedom in Classical Armenian het 'footstep', with the expected h- because here *p- wasn't followed by *o.

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  • Was it pronounced with an initial v- in Classical Armenian, like it is in modern Armenian? Apr 22, 2023 at 21:54
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    @AdamBittlingmayer Presumably not, or it would have been written.
    – Cairnarvon
    Apr 22, 2023 at 22:33
  • Not exactly clear to me. For context, o was only introduced in the 11th century, because the '-v' in 'av' was lost, i.e. for words which actually started with a vowel in proto-Armenian. Apr 25, 2023 at 9:58
  • @AdamBittlingmayer otn is written ոտն, with ո rather than օ (which is ō < aw). ո was part of the alphabet from the start.
    – Cairnarvon
    Apr 25, 2023 at 19:18
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    @AdamBittlingmayer All PIE words had an initial consonant, and it hasn't stopped other daughter languages from developing words starting with vowels. It's less believable to me that 1. multiple consonants (I'm counting *kʷ, *p, *h₃, and [x] in your examples) would independently develop into w or v word-initially before o rather than being lost outright (if that's what you're saying) and 2. people establishing a new writing system just wouldn't write a letter that's there (and for which they have a glyph) than that certain vowels (o and e) would secondarily develop a glide onset.
    – Cairnarvon
    Apr 27, 2023 at 15:29
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The simplest answer, Beekes 2001 p. 171, is that "*p > h- in anlaut before vowel (> zero before o)" – this is one of the Armenian sound changes. A more nuanced answer is that *p lenited to φ, and disappeared in certain perceptually-challenging contexts such as before o or before a consonant, or w after a vowel, or h initially before a vowel. The presence of h in hur "fire" is surprising in light of deletion in otn, ul, ali-k' *same page): deletion is only before o, not u.

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  • Was it pronounced with an initial v- in Classical Armenian, like it is in modern Armenian? Apr 22, 2023 at 21:55

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