Speaker Series: Juliette Blevins (CUNY)


Talks will take place on Thursdays from 3:30pm - 5pm, followed by a reception in the Linguistics Department.


The talks themselves are open to members of the greater university community. 


Advances in Proto-Basque Reconstruction with Evidence for The Proto-Indo-European-Euskarian Hypothesis

This talk presents central features of a new reconstruction of Proto-Basque, the mother language of modern Basque varieties, historical Basque, and Aquitanian (Martínez-Areta 2013). Proto-Basque is reconstructed on the basis of the method of internal reconstruction and the comparative method, with a focus on previously unappreciated alternations and asymmetries in sound distribution.  The reconstructions and sound changes proposed are, at the same time, informed by studies of the phonetic bases of sound change, and typological characteristics of sound inventories, phonotactics, and alternation types (Blevins 2004, 2015). The reconstruction of Proto-Basque builds on the monumental work of Michelena (1961), and the more recent CVC root theory of Lakarra (1995, 2013), but differs from both of these in significant ways.  Labials *m and *ph are reconstructed, where both are absent in Michelena’s reconstruction. A single fricative *s is proposed, in contrast to the Michelena’s proposal with *s and *z. Basque /z/ continues syllable-initial *s in *sC clusters, and syllable-final *s in *Cs clusters. Proto-Basque reconstructions based on these methods have a surprising property: many of them resemble Proto-Indo-European roots. A careful assessment of these superficial similarities using the comparative method reveals regular sound correspondences for all consonants and vowels in a wide range of roots, stems, and words, including basic vocabulary and grammatical morphemes, providing preliminary evidence that Proto-Basque and Proto-Indo-European are related. However, conservative features of Proto-Basque suggest that it does not descend from Proto-Indo-European. Rather, the Proto-Indo-European-Euskara hypothesis proposes that these two ancient languages both descend from the same, more ancient, mother tongue.
Thursday, February 22, 2018 - 3:30pm - 5:00pm
David Rittenhouse Laboratory, Room A4