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LINGUIST List 19.2595

Sat Aug 23 2008

Qs: Vedic L

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        1.    Peter Scharf, Vedic L

Message 1: Vedic L
Date: 21-Aug-2008
From: Peter Scharf <scharfbrown.edu>
Subject: Vedic L
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Dear Colleagues,

I'm describing the phonetic features of Sanskrit sounds for the appendix
of LInguistic Issues in Encoding Sanskrit my colleague Malcolm Hyman and I
are putting the finishing touches on. One I'm a bit uncertain about it the
so-called Vedic l, sometimes called Marathi l, which occurs
intervocalically in Rgvedic dialect for retroflex d. I'm unsure whether
this is an approximant (like l) or a flap like .d (that is the Devanagari d
with a dot below as in Modern Hindi la.dakaa). Gujarati also has
intervocalic flap developing from .d. These flaps are not l's bur r's.
The question is, ''Is (or was) the Vedic l a lateral flap or a lateral

Although Allen mentions flap-articulation, his references are not probative.

Allen (1953: 73) ''they [our authorities] take note, however, of the
especially brief and light flap-articulation of intervocalic voiced
retroflex stops. Note 2
[Note 2:SESirIya-SikzA 22. duspfzwaS ceti vijYeyo qa-QayoH svara-maDyayoH
(in the RP (see 1.110 above) duHspfzwa = Izatspfzwa and is used to describe
the articulation of the semivowels). Cf. also VP 4.146 qa-QO La-LAv
ekezAm; RP 1.52. For a kymographic study of this feature in Gujarati see
t. N. Dave BSOAS 6.673ff.

I checked the reference:
Dave, T. N. 1931. ''Notes on Gujarati Phonology.'' Bulletin of the School
of Oriental and African Studies, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 673-678. Stable URL:

Dave says only that
Gujarati M.I. .d > G. tapped r.

It seems to me Allen's references weigh against his conclusion that Vedic l
is a flap, but are not absolutely conclusive. It may not be that all the
ancients identified duHspfzwa with Izatspfzwa and the former could indicate
tap or flap versus approximant. Alternatively, even if the two terms are
identical, they need not distinguish tap and flap from approximant.

One bit of evidence that might settle the question concerns whether there
are cases in Indic of the retroflex lateral approximant occuring
particularly in the intervocalic environment. Is the Tamil retroflex l
exclusively or particularly intervocalic?

Your help would be appreciated.

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics

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