The *Bʰlog.

The *Bʰlog is “a website that hopes to provide an accessible but informed forum for all matters Indo-European”:

The idea for this website arose in the Fall of 2013, when two fables that I recorded for Archaeology Magazine went viral and were heard by hundreds of thousands of people who had never even heard of Proto-Indo-European or the Indo-European language family. The goal of the website is to keep that interest going. If you’re a layperson, feel free to send an e-mail to the *Bʰlog with questions you might have about Indo-European. If you’re a specialist and want to contribute to the site, just let me know and I will set you up an account.

It’s run by University of Kentucky linguist Andrew Byrd and vouched for by Piotr Gąsiorowski (from whose post I learned about it), so I have no hesitation in recommending it and will add it to my blogroll forthwith.

Update. It turns out that “Andrew Byrd … is the administrator of the *Bʰlog but almost all the stuff has been written by his students as a kind of out-of-class exercise, hence its uneven quality.” Caveat lector.

Comments

  1. Should’t it be the *bʰleh₃gʷ ?

  2. Quelle blague!

  3. David Marjanović says:

    Bafflingly, a WordPress login is required for commenting. I have to start my own blog just to comment at another…?

    I guess I’ll just dump my thoughts here. This post on the High German consonant shift is rather disappointing. It talks about [b] and [g] as if those had been the basic realizations of phonemes in Proto-West Germanic – when in fact they were fairly rare allophones of /v~β/ and /ɣ/! Even the Wikipedia article is better than that, in spite of glossing over phonemically long consonants and voiceless lenes almost as much as the post does.

    Here Mozarabic is called “a Spanish influenced Arabic dialect spoken in Southern Andalusia”. Hell no. It was a Romance language that shared certain retentions with Italian but not with Spanish. And no kind of Spanish ever had a flap.

    This post, on the other hand, has the best illustrations! Too bad it doesn’t provide a single example of taboo deformation; all it really talks about, except in the headline, is taboo avoidance by complete replacement.

  4. The article on Proto Indo-European creation myths was quite disappointing.

  5. I hate to pile on, since this is the sort of site I’d love to see more of, but really, it’s pretty poorly done so far. This entry refers to modern German [Ɂ h x] as “laryngeals”, and then goes on to say that the Arabic writing system shows “vowel coloring” similar to that which existed in PIE.

  6. It’s not enough to have a WordPress login, which I do; I suspect you need to be inside the university to comment at all. I made the same comment about Mozarabic at Piotr’s blog, but it’s still stuck in his moderation queue. It may be true, however, that Mozarabic had the phonology it’s shown as having, due to the large number of Arabic loanwords.

  7. Alon Lischinsky says:

    @David Marjanović:

    no kind of Spanish ever had a flap

    I suppose you’re among those who distinguish taps from flaps. Or are you disputing the existence of Spanish /ɾ/?

  8. David: I wanted to comment on the Bhlog myself, and couldn’t, despite having a WordPress account. There’s something wrong with the “Leave a Comment” feature. I asked Andy Byrd if he knew the reason, but have had no reply so far.

    John: Comment moderation if off on my blog. Have you had problems posting there?

  9. GeorgeW says:

    I wonder if some of the articles are papers written by undergraduate students as term papers or the like.

  10. GeorgeW:

    As far as I can see, Andrew Byrd (an excellent Indo-Europeanist) is the administrator of the *Bhlog but almost all the stuff has been written by his students as a kind of out-of-class exercise, hence its uneven quality. It’s really a pity that comments don’t seem to be enabled; it would give the students a lot of useful feedback. Andrew tells me he’s a little busy now but he intends to develop the *Bhlog into a completely serious IE site, or even a free online archive of publications and research/teaching materials in IE studies. That’s why I recommend it in advance and look forward to its further development.

  11. David Marjanović says:

    refers to modern German [Ɂ h x] as “laryngeals”

    Among IEists, “laryngeal” isn’t really meant to refer to a place of articulation these days. (Caucasianists apparently use it as a cover term for glottal and epiglottal consonants.) I’ve seen some postulate that *h2 was [x] and continue to call it a laryngeal.

    Of course, German is a bad example for the behavior of the PIE “laryngeals”: they don’t color vowels (instead, the vowels color /x/ in most accents), and [Ɂ] isn’t even a phoneme. (It’s a common sound in vaguely northern accents, but that’s because it’s automatically inserted in front of every stressed syllable that would otherwise begin with a vowel; even secondary stress does that.)

    and then goes on to say that the Arabic writing system shows “vowel coloring” similar to that which existed in PIE

    …which is particularly bizarre because what the Arabic language does is a much better example: in the general vicinity of uvular, pharyngeal* and glottal consonants, /æ i u/ are drawn in the general direction of [ɑ], resulting in [ɑ e o] or thereabouts.

    * Some varieties have epiglottal instead of pharyngeal consonants, and those have a quite different effect, drawing everything in the general direction of [æ].

    It may be true, however, that Mozarabic had the phonology it’s shown as having, due to the large number of Arabic loanwords.

    Of course. (On the other hand, maybe the Arabic loanwords are just spelled like in the original in the few existing documents, not necessarily meaning that uneducated speakers pronounced them that way.)

    I suppose you’re among those who distinguish taps from flaps. Or are you disputing the existence of Spanish /ɾ/?

    Of course I don’t dispute that la ere y la erre are two different phonemes. I’ve just never heard la ere pronounced as a flap – or, I guess, as a tap. It’s plainly a short trill. It’s so short it has just a single contact; but that’s normal for phonemically short trills the world over. In Italian, I once read somewhere, /r/ has 1 to 2 contacts, and /rː/ has 3 to 4. In Spanish, la erre has 4 to 5.

    I’m claiming that la ere y la erre are /r/ and /rː/. This means that Spanish has one single length contrast in its entire phoneme inventory (having lost all others many centuries ago); and this unusual feature is probably among the reasons why people usually try to find another distinction between the phonemes in question – which isn’t really there.

    Another reason may be one of the ways trills differ from all other sounds in human language: if you increase the air pressure, you can say a trill faster, packing the same amount of contacts (> 1) into a smaller amount of time. Thus, a phonemically long trill isn’t necessarily literally long (though it usually is).

    Yet another may be an extrapolation from English. Well into the 20th century, the most prestigious accents of English used [r] between vowels. Native speakers of other accents who can’t pronounce [r] generally resort to [ɾ] when they try to imitate such an accent; the example I’m thinking of is Emperor Palpatine bragging about “this fully armed – and op[ɛɾ]ational! – battle station”. My native accents (of German) both lack [r] as well as [ɾ], and I find these sounds easy to distinguish, with [ɾ] being generally more similar to [d] than to [r].

  12. It seems my “Post Comment” button got stuck. My apologies if my post (a reply to David Marjanović) got duplicated as I attempted to send it. It’s still invisible anyway.

  13. Andrew Byrd (an excellent Indo-Europeanist) is the administrator of the *Bhlog but almost all the stuff has been written by his students as a kind of out-of-class exercise, hence its uneven quality.

    That does not strike me as a good idea. He should have one site (purely intramural) for his students to practice on, and another (outward-facing) for his own work and that of other credentialed scholars. Otherwise he risks making himself look sloppy and ignorant; I confess I was shocked when the problems were pointed out above.

  14. I think people expect variable quality on a group blog, and though a professor and students is an unusual version of a group blog, still. Check the bylines!

    Piotr, I’ve never been moderated on your blog before, so I assume it was either a Google glitch or a random-looking decision by its spam filters.

    David M: I think “automatically inserted in front of every stressed syllable that would otherwise begin with a vowel” is overly strong. The rule I was taught is that [ʔ] appears before word-initial stressed vowels, including in compound words and after prefixes. Thus ʔein and Verʔein (though I’ve been known to slip and say [fəˈʀaɪ̯n] instead of [fɛa̯ˈʔaɪ̯n]) and Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauʔunterbeʔamtengesellschaft.

  15. I think people expect variable quality on a group blog

    But variety within constraints. If it’s presented as “an accessible but informed forum for all matters Indo-European,” the expectation is that it’s going to provide reliable information by professionals in the field. I mean, who wants to read the essays of students? Their professors only do it because they’re paid to. I wouldn’t put online the stuff I wrote as a grad student; much of the time I barely knew what I was talking about (though I was learning to fake it in the best professional manner).

  16. Jonh: Piotr, I’ve never been moderated on your blog before, so I assume it was either a Google glitch or a random-looking decision by its spam filters.

    My dashboard says: Comments awaiting moderation — 0, so there must be a black cyberhole lurking somewhere. I have made several attempts to reply to David Marjanović’s post about taps and flaps but they’re all gone the same way.

  17. Well into the 20th century, the most prestigious accents of English used [r] between vowels.

    Really!!? Which accents?

    Emperor Palpatine bragging about “this fully armed – and op[ɛɾ]ational! – battle station”

    Found a clip of this. I don’t hear a [ɾ] in ‘operational’. Maybe at the end of firepower, though.

  18. Hmm. As a writer/teacher, I wonder about that “uneven quality.” If a post needs editing, shouldn’t that be done? Or is “uneven quality” just a cover term for some posts that might be of general, rather than scholarly, interest? Because I like the general ones just as well.

  19. If a post needs editing, shouldn’t that be done?

    Certainly, but by whom? The students don’t know enough, and the teacher doesn’t have time.

  20. OK, I’ll give it a try try again.

    In recent centuries, no English English accents have used a trill for intervocalic /r/ (except sometimes in “hyperexplicit” styles, like singing or stage pronunciation). An alveolar tap has for a long time been common in the North of England in the following positions: intervocalically (before an unstressed vowel), in prevocalic sandhi, and in some /Cr/ clusters. Old fashioned and upper-class RP-like accents may have it intervocalically in the first two environments mentioned above (very, far away), and after a dental fricative (three). English /r/ has been highly polymorphic for many centuries (see the link below).

    http://tinyurl.com/molkulw

  21. George Gibbard says:

    Regarding the German glottal stop, for prescriptive standard pronunciation, my Siebs deutsche Aussprache (19th edition, 1969) seems to favor John Cowan’s analysis instead of David Marjanovićʼs. I think John Cowan’s rule should cover it for native voacabulary, though there are exceptions: for example herein, darein, daran, woran, worauf. Meanwhile “In nichtdeutschen Wörtern aber darf der Vokal nach | keinesfalls mit Sprengeinsatz gesprochen werden: Hiatus [hi|ˈɑːtʊs].” So Aorta in German should not have a glottal stop, whereas (according to McCarthy and Prince) it does in Dutch, unlike Pharao.

  22. David Marjanović says:

    David M: I think “automatically inserted in front of every stressed syllable that would otherwise begin with a vowel” is overly strong. The rule I was taught is that [ʔ] appears before word-initial stressed vowels, including in compound words and after prefixes.

    That’s what I’ve read in several places, but it’s wrong. I’ve heard things like ʔAsteroʔiden und Kometen (note the lack of [ʔ] before the unstressed und), ʔeventuʔell, ʔaktuʔell, Pharaʔo, Naʔomi, Joʔachim very often, and have noticed (for whatever that’s worth!) the absence of such gloʔʔal stops only in more southern accents, like mine, where [ʔ] is only inserted in front of whole utterances that would otherwise begin with a vowel (like in, say, English) and where Verein comes out as [fɐˈʀɛ̞ɪ̯n].

    Found a clip of this. I don’t hear a [ɾ] in ‘operational’.

    …That sudden feeling of not being able to trust my own memory. I have it. :-S

    There’s indeed no [ɾ] in ‘operational’. There’s something in ‘firepower of’, but I can’t tell what exactly – it could be a flap or a one-contact trill, even [ʀ].

    Old fashioned and upper-class RP-like accents may have it intervocalically in the first two environments mentioned above (very, far away)

    That’s what I mean, sorry for not being clearer.

    I’ve read your paper because it’s on academia.edu, just two clicks away from your blog; but thanks for the downloadable link :-)

    and after a dental fricative (three)

    I’ve encountered a few Americans who do that (native speakers, and white even). Surprised me a lot at first.

    Regarding the German glottal stop, for prescriptive standard pronunciation

    That’s the stage pronunciation which is only used on stages, not even by TV newsreaders, and hardly taught to anyone other than professional actors. It contains a few completely artificial features that are meant to make it easier to understand in the acoustics of a theater, most notably the requirement to end the diphthongs ei, au, eu/äu in closed vowels – [ae̯ ao̯ ɔø̯] – which, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, nobody has ever done without paying a lot of attention to it.

    In nichtdeutschen Wörtern aber darf der Vokal nach | keinesfalls mit Sprengeinsatz gesprochen werden

    A prescriptive statement (darf [...] keinesfalls “must in no case”) that the authors wouldn’t have thought to make if people obeyed this rule in less artificial registers than the stage pronunciation.

  23. Will: I agree. Ian McDiarmid pronounces the linking /r/ at the end of firepower as a tap, but has a pretty inconspicuous alveolar approximant in friends and operational (and, while we’re at it, avoids a linking /r/ in fire at will by inserting a glottal stop). Non-rhoticity is one of the ways in which he reduces the Scottishness of his accent (so no /r/ in armed, commander, etc.), but his Palpatine voice has some Scottish traits, such as the shortish monophthongal /e/ in failed, operational, and station.

  24. David Marjanović says:

    Wouldn’t a tap be a very short plosive?

  25. A tap can be described as a very short stop. The occlusion is so brief, however, that air pressure can’t build up behind the point of contact, and there’s no audible plosion (release burst).

  26. ʔAsteroʔiden und Kometen

    Okay, random glottal stops to fill hiatus, but seemingly only in foreign words.

  27. David Marjanović says:

    random glottal stops to fill hiatus

    Only in front of stressed syllables. A glottal stop in every hiatus is what you get in one particular accent of Polish.

    seemingly only in foreign words

    There aren’t many native words that are stressed after a hiatus, but your own examples of Verein and Beamter count, as do beeilen and Ereignis.

  28. All of which are word-initial, unlike ʔAsteroʔiden.

  29. David Marjanović says:

    Morpheme-initial, OK. I don’t think vowel collisions where the second vowel is stressed occur within German morphemes of Germanic origin at all – all those morphemes, I guess, are stressed on the first syllable.

  30. GeorgeW says:

    I have given a little thought to students authoring articles on the blog. Actually, I don’t think that this is objectionable for non-specialists or a general audience. This might be a good way to get some interesting material in front of non-specialists. It also could be a great pedagogical tool. I can imagine the teacher assigning term papers and saying that the top ones will be published in the blog. This could be an incentive for some serious work.

    However, a couple of thoughts.

    1. Articles should be carefully edited by the professor to remove any falsities or unsupported assertions.

    2. The author should, IMO, be identified as a linguistics student so that any reader knows they are not dealing with material developed by a seasoned scholar.

  31. Yes, under those conditions I agree it’s not a bad idea.

  32. Alon Lischinsky says:

    @David Marjanović:

    I’ve just never heard la ere pronounced as a flap – or, I guess, as a tap. It’s plainly a short trill.

    I don’t think there is anything plain about that.

    I hear and feel Spanish 〈r〉 as clearly distinct from Italian 〈r〉, which is the example of a short trill with which I am most familiar. Trills, whether short or long, involve the tongue being relaxed so that the turbulent airstream will force it into contact with the passive articulator, but that does not seem to be the case in my eres, in which the tongue remains tense throughout.

    The few dialects where a trilled realisation can be heard (e.g., Basque Spanish) are very distinctive, even for speakers with no linguistic training.

  33. David Marjanović says:

    Interesting; I’ll need to pay more attention.

    I have, however, noticed that the place of articulation isn’t exactly the same in the two Spanish phonemes, and the Italian one is different again.

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