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Summary Details

Query:   Russian Oxytone Nouns in /og/
Author:  Brent de Chene
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Historical Linguistics

Summary:   Regarding Query:

I received six replies to my inquiry (Monday, May 7) about the
(in)stability of the double alternation in Russian pirok/piraga ''pie
(Nom/Gen Sg)'', all within about 48 hours of the original posting. The
replies differed to some extent in how directly they addressed my question,
but none of them gave any reason to believe that either of the
''regularizations'' envisioned in (A) of my inquiry is actually observed in
any variety of Russian, and the majority explicitly denied the existence of
any such phenomenon. I conclude provisionally that the double alternation
is in fact stable and that there is no tendency to reanalyze it by taking
one of the two surface allomorphs as basic. This impression is
strengthened by noting that only a very small number of stems display the
double alternation in question (the other commonly cited example is
sapok/sapaga ''boot (Nom/Gen Sg)''): if there were any tendency to
regularize, one might well expect the handful of relevant items to succumb
to it rather quickly.

It does not of course follow from the stability of this particular pattern
of alternation that the general tendency suggested in (A) of my
inquiry--namely, the tendency for speakers to set up basic/underlying
forms that coincide with surface alternants--does not exist. It seems
plausible that (a) such a tendency does exist, but (b) it manifests itself
only when further conditions are satisfied. This is, clearly, too big an
issue to pursue here--it is essentially equivalent to the ''initiation'' or
''actuation'' problem for analogical change, a problem typically consigned
by introductory textbooks to the realm of unknowability (see e.g. Hock,
Principles of Historical Linguistics, 2nd ed., pp. 210-211).

I have corresponded with my respondents individually, but I would like to
take this opportunity to thank all of them again for their help.

LL Issue: 18.1466
Date Posted: 14-May-2007
Original Query: Read original query


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