Ask-A-Linguist Message Details
I recently met a gentleman with the last name Tlumack. He
expressed some problems with having a last name which
begins with an English-illegal consonant cluster (he was not a
linguist). He then said that he had no idea what the origin of
his last name was--though he had verified that the initial tl-
was not an orthographic error. He believed his family to have
come to the United States from Hungary.
It has been a while since I studied historical phonology (and
my studies were limited to just a few Indo European
Languages--and I never achieved ''deep'' knowledge of the
subject), so I was unable to tell him a language family or
subgroup that would have allowed the initial /tl/ cluster. I feel
that it is also possible that the <tl> in the orthography is not
actually representative of a /tl/ cluster, but rather a lateral
affricate, or something else.
I'd like to be able to help this man figure out the linguistic
origin of his last name! Is the <tl> actually representative of
that cluster? Or something else? And is the name Indo
European or maybe Uralic?
As a side note--I was curious to confirm why /tl/ might be
illegal in English while /pl/ and /kl/ are fine. Do phonologists
think it's just because /t/ and /l/ share roughly the same place
of articulation? Are these distributions similar cross-
linguistically--i.e. are /pl/ and /kl/ more common than /tl/?
Thanks so much!
It is a normal-sounding word in Czech (and perhaps other closely-related Slavonic languages). I think it would mean something like "damper", i.e. someone who dampens things, whatever that would be.
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