The Phonetic Law -CnT# > Cr(T)#

I assume the endings -m (animated gender) and -d (inanimated gender) to be the original gender markers occuring in nouns in the absolutive case (=later accusative). There is no doubt concerning the animated gender - the ending -m occurs in all declensions and in the plural, too, which originally ended in -ms, i.e. the singular ending + plural marker -s. On the other hand the marker -d for the inanimate gender occurs in pronouns only e.g. Latin "quid", "quod" and so on. Nouns of the inanimate gender can be divided into those of the o-declension which bear the marker -m (!) in the singular (but not in the plural), those which show no ending in the nominative and accusative at all (for example Latin "mare") and those which are named "heteroclita" showing -r in nominative and accusative but -n + case ending in the other cases. For this last group change of the stem has been assumed and in addition a fundamental difference between the declensions of nouns and pronouns has been assumed. Both opinions are not satisfactory at all. So I have looked for a possibility to explain those facts without assuming stem change for the heteroclita and different inflections for nouns and pronouns. This requires traces of the original ending -d at nouns of the inanimated gender.

 So I have established the phonetic law "-CnT# > -Cr(T)#". "C" is the symbol for any consonant and "T" means the phonemes "d, t, dh" equally. So -n- and (later) -r- in this position are sonantic. "#" symbolizes the end of the word. In this position "T" shows a tendency to disappear which is symbolized by the brackets.

 The reason for this law is less effort in speech as can easily be tested. Sonantic -n- seems to have been less stable than sonantic -r- and often developed into a vowel in Indoeuropean languages. The phonemes a, r, l, n, d, t and dh are related because all of them are produced by the same mouth position i.e. the tongue in flat (not arched) position. The development from -n- to -r- means first of all loss of nasalization and therefore the attainment of a higher degree of phonetic relationship to the following "T" which is not nasalized. The process may be interpreted as partial assimilation.

 What are the consequences of this law? First of all the ending -r of the heteroclita may be analysed as -n + -d which developed to -r + -d and finally to -r. That means that there is no stem change at all: heteroclita are neuters of the n-declension with the same gender marker as pronouns. There is no difference between the inflections of nouns and pronouns! The heteroclita disappear in modern Indoeuropean languages but Hittite and other old Indoeuropean languages show that this class was formerly wide-spread. On the other hand neuters of the o-declension are an increasing class. I assume that this class is influenced by the animate gender where the marker -m generally occurs. The remaining class of endingless neuters might have been influenced by the heteroclita which seemed to be endingless as soon as the previously described phonetic law had taken effect. Another position where this phonetic law must have taken effect exists: The third person plural of the "secondary" verbal endings of the active voice. This ending is -nt and must have developed to -r(t) immediately after a consonant. I think that the third person plural of the perfect ending -r is of the same origin. The secondary ending -r does not occur at "thematic" stems and at "athematic" stems which show the ending -ent which seems to be the alternative to avoid the ending -r in certain verbal classes (unless due to accent). The ending -r occurs at verbal stems of the "third" Indoaryan verbal class which show present reduplication and no thematic vowel e.g. 3. plural imperfect abibharur < ébibhernt vs. 3. plural present bibhrati < bibhrnti vs. 3. singular imperfect abibhar < ébibhert vs. 3. singular present bibharti < bibherti, cf. the verbum of the "first" (thematic) class abharan < ébheront vs. bharanti < bheronti vs. abharat < ébheret vs. bharati < bhereti. It is clear that a strong tendency to reestablish the old ending -n(t) existed, due to the thematic verba in -on(t) and the primary ending -nti which took place in Greek and also in Gatha Avestan. A similiar tendency seems to have been responsible for the lack of the ending -r in neuter nouns of the nt-declension. But perhaps the Hittite verbal substantive in -uwar which corresponds with the infinitive in -uwanzi shows the law (-uwar < ..nt = nominative against -uwanzi < ..nt-i = locative ?).

Further arguments

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Written by Hans-Joachim Alscher