Michel Ferlus

Independant researcher (CNRS, Retired) France




Toward Proto Pearic: Problems and historical Implications


Since the founding works of Robert Headley on Proto Pearic, new data on Pearic languages were published by Thai scholars. A four registers system is now clearly attested.

Only the most striking problems will be examined here :

-Consonantal series shifts of plosives initial (17th century) show two types of changes: */p t c k/>/pʰ tʰ cʰ kʰ/ regular phonetic change in Pearic, and */p t c k/>/p t c k/ phonetic change under Khmer influence.

-Periodization of shifts of finals *-s, *-r and *-l.

-It will be shown that the final -ʔ in Pearic languages was generated by an old laryngeal tenseness on main syllables and does not correspond to PMK *-ʔ at all. Proto Pearic must be reconstructed without a final glottal stop.

A sketch of the stages of evolution of Pearic languages from PMK until modern languageswill be proposed :

(i) Original stage: Proto Pearic close to PMK with final *-ʔ. The Pearic branch starts to separate from MK by the loss of PMK *-ʔ.

(ii) Stage of Early Proto Pearic (no final -ʔ): Development of a syllabic contrast tense-lax which will generate the future creaky voice feature.

 (iii) Stage of Late Proto Pearic: Shift of initial plosives series (reinforcement of unvoiced ones and devoicing of voiced ones) with formation of a breathy voice feature.

(iii) Actual stage : A four registers system.

It will be shown how the Old Chinese tense-lax syllabic contrast was propagated in Vietic, then in Katuic (exactly East Katuic) and in Pearic, along the Han trade route from North-Vietnam to the gulf of Thailand.