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Proto-Muskogean Language Notes

1. I thank Emmanuel Drechsel, Penelope Drooker, Heather Hardy, John Justeson, Geoff Kimball, Pat Kwachka, Jack Martin, Pamela Munro, Dale Nicklas, Dean Snow, and the audiences at the Southern Anthropological Society and University at Albany for their comments and suggestions on this paper. All mistakes are my own.

The following abbrevations are used: : Al = Alabama, Ap = Apalachee, Cr = Creek, Cs = Chickasaw, Ct = Choctaw, H = Hitchiti, K = Koasati, MCt = Mississippi Choctaw, Mk = Mikasuki, OS = Oklahoma Seminole, S = Seminole. The following orthographic conventions are used in the citation of data from Muskogean languages: nasalized vowels are indicated with a tilde; <ch> (in Western Muskogean) and <c> (in other languages) represent […]; <lh> represents ["] (a voiceless lateral fricative); and <sh> (in Western Muskogean) represents [š].

The financial support of the Departments of Anthropology and Linguistics and Cognitive Science at the University at Albany, State University of New York is gratefully acknowledged.

2. In general this discussion omits the extinct Muskogean languages Apalachee (Kimball 1987, 1988), Guale and Yamasee (Broadwell 1991), since the available data are fragmentary. Haas (1949) argues that Apalachee is most closely related to [Page 42] Alabama and Koasati. Broadwell (1991) suggests that Guale and Yamasee are most closely related to Creek.

3. Thus Kimball's (1989) objection to Munro's classification on the grounds of the names assigned to the branches is misguided.

4. Kimball is explicit about his hypothesis of a ternary split in the text of his paper, but the accompanying diagram shows all three possible branchings for Central Muskogean with question marks (i.e. as a separate branch, joined with Western Muskogean, and joined with Eastern Muskogean).

5. As Diamond (1992) notes, critics of lexicostatistics are often nevertheless willing to make estimates of time depth based on intuition.

6. In fact, there is some possibility that pãshi/pãshi' may also be cognate with the other words for `hair'. The etymology of these forms is something of a mystery, but one derivation might be PM *ik w a `head' + *hisi `hair'. While PM *k w generally develops into Western Muskogean /b/, there are some cases in Choctaw where initial /p/ and /b/alternate, e.g. pichilli/bichilli `to ooze out', bishlichi/wishlichi `to milk' and pishi `to suck'.

7. Presumably this is due to the environment where Mikasuki is currently spoken.

8. Muskogean seems comparable in diversity with the [Page 43] Romance family, which has a time depth of about 2500 years. This may suggest that the date for Proto-Muskogean is somewhat more recent than 960 BC figure given. A date of ca. 600 BC is within the range of error of the lexicostatistical calculations and consistent with the comparison to Romance.

9. Nicklas (this volume) suggests that the fact that the figures for an Alabama-Creek split and a Choctaw-Creek split differ from each other shows that lexicostatistical methods are invalid. This is a mistaken interpretation of the data.

The figures in the table above attempt to give us some quantitative measure of the degree of similarity between the Muskogean languages. That similarity is then used to estimate the degree of separation between the languages. However, some portion of that similarity is due to a distant common history, while another portion of the similarity is due to more recent influence and borrowing. It is entirely consistent with the results above to claim that the Choctaw and Alabama languages are equally distant from Creek, but that Alabama shows a greater modern similarity due to more recent Creek influence. In deciding which of the estimates of the separation date is more likely to be correct, we should thus prefer the more distant figure suggested by the Choctaw-Creek comparison. [Page 44]

10. The list below includes all the terms for flora and fauna listed in Munro et al. (1991), with the following exceptions: I did not include BIRD, BIRD SP., FISH SP, FISH (because they are not specific enough to give us useful information) or obvious borrowings from European languages (BACON, CAT, COFFEE, COW, GOAT, OKRA, RICE, TOMATO, WHEAT).

I reject the proposed cognate sets for BEAN, BEAVER, HUCKLEBERRY 2, PEANUT as improbable.

The cognate set for CHICKEN is a special problem. There is a similar word for `chicken' in many languages, but it must have originally applied to some other sort of bird, since the chicken is a European introduction.

Some sets contain lexical material duplicated in other sets, and I have attempted to include only one set in such cases. I include OPOSSUM, but not HOG, since they are from the same root. I exclude OWL 4, since it is the same root as HOOT OWL. I do not include the compounds ROADRUNNER (`fast bird') or WHALE (`water blow').

11. The following discussion relies heavily on the discussion of the cognate sets in Munro et al (1991).

12. As Martin (1987:117) notes, the phonology of the Mk. nokosi `bear' is unusual for a Mikasuki word, since we would expect lengthening of the initial syllable in words of this shape. This strengthens the case for treating this word as [Page 45] a loan.

13. In many of the other languages, `watermelon' appears to be a compound based on `pumpkin' + a root /tal(ak)/ which may mean `lie down'.

14. Al, K cici probably originates as a children's word for penis. The origin of Cs. inkilish is obscure, and it is not clear that it is cognate to the other items.

15. Data for this appendix were provided by Heather Hardy (Alabama), Jack Martin (Creek and Mikasuki), and Pamela Munro (Chickasaw). Choctaw data comes from Byington (1915) and Broadwell (1987b). [Page 46]


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