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The dinguist’s dilemma

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Abstract

This paper explores interactions between the lateral liquid l and the voiced stop d (with parenthetical remarks about n and t as well) in a variety of language families, especially Sino-Tibetan/Tibeto-Burman. These apical sounds participate both in synchronic patterns of variation and in diachronic patterns of sound change. Sometimes changes of *l &#62; d or *d &#62; l seem quite regular, as e.g. in the passage from Old to Middle Chinese. More often perhaps, these changes appear sporadic. Recognition of l &#62;&#60; d alternations in ST/TB permits the refinement of several etymologies. The phonetic similarity between these sounds accounts for the fact that they interact with such frequency in languages all over the world. <i>Di gantse velt shteyt oyf der shpits tsung</i>. (Yiddish proverb)

References

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