LINGUIST List 12.1714

Tue Jul 3 2001

Qs: 'Yesterday' & 'Tomorrow', Syllabic Consonants

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  1. Malcolm Ross, History of terms for 'yesterday' and 'tomorrow'
  2. Zoe Toft, Query re syllabic consonants

Message 1: History of terms for 'yesterday' and 'tomorrow'

Date: Mon, 2 Jul 2001 15:36:52 +1000
From: Malcolm Ross <>
Subject: History of terms for 'yesterday' and 'tomorrow'

I am interested in the diachronic origins of terms for 'yesterday' 
and 'tomorrow'. In Germanic, Slavic and Oceanic Austronesian 
languages, at least, we find terms for 'yesterday' derived from 
'evening' (Slavic, Oceanic) and for 'tomorrow' from 'morning' 
(Germanic, Oceanic). I have three questions:

1) Is there a Slavonic specialist who can tell me how Russian 
/vchera/ 'evening' is related to /vecher/ 'evening'? I take it 
/vchera/ is a case-marked form of /vecher/, but I haven't managed to 
locate the details.

2) Are there similar developments in other language families? I 
assume there are, and I would be grateful for examples.

3) Has anyone written anything about these developments? Perhaps I 
have been looking in the wrong places, but almost everything I have 
found about the linguistics of time is either about aspect and tense 
(like Comrie's excellent works) or has a strong philosophical bias. 
The development of lexical items seems too mundane to command 

Please reply to my e-mail address and I will summarise for the list 
whatever replies I receive.

Thank you.

Malcolm Ross
Dr Malcolm D. Ross
Senior Fellow
Department of Linguistics
Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies
Australian National University
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Message 2: Query re syllabic consonants

Date: Mon, 02 Jul 2001 07:45:50 -0000
From: Zoe Toft <>
Subject: Query re syllabic consonants

Dear all,

I am a PhD student at the school of Oriental and African Studies in London, 
UK and am looking for references on languages with so called syllabic 
consonants. Bell (1978) cites 85 languages with syllabic consonants but some 
of his original sources have been liberally interpreted for inclusion in 
this category and very few provide any sort of phonetic data (which is not 
surprising given the age of many of his sources). Therefore I am trying to 
update his database and would appreciate your input.
Blevins (1995:220) provides a table on the parametric variation in syllabic 
segments, ranging from Kabardian, which only allows non high vowels as 
syllabic segments, to Imdlawn Tashlhiyt Berber which allows all types of 
segments, including fricatives and stops, to be syllabic segments. I would 
like to find more examples for inclusion in her table: Do you know of 
languages which allow for rhotic but not lateral or nasal sonorants as 
syllabic constituents (cf Sanskrit)? Or languages which allow for fricative 
syllabic consonants, but not stops (cf Dakelh/Carrier)?. I would be 
particularly interested to hear of a language where voicing plays a role in 
the potential of a segment to be syllabic: if we accept a general version of 
the sonority hierarchy (e.g. Katamba 1989:104), voiced segments are more 
sonorant than voiceless ones and thus one could conceive of a language 
which, for example, allows voiced fricative syllabic stops but not voiceless 

Please send suggestions and references to me at:

If there is interest I will post a summary on the list.

Many thanks,

Zoe Toft

Bell, A. (1978) Syllabic consonants. In Greenberg, J. (Ed.) Universals of 
Human Language. pp 153-201
Blevins, J. (1995) The Syllable in Phonological Theory. In Goldsmith, J. The 
Handbook of Phonological Theory. pp 206-244
Katamba, F. (1989) An Introduction to Phonology.

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