Bilde: Sjøsamer på vei tilbake fra lofotfiske. Verdens modigste sjøfolk ifølge den engelske tegneren.

Viser arkivet for stikkord protouralsk

Eksisterte det et felles samisk-finsk urspråk?

I historisk språkforskning så har det tidligere blitt argumentert for at samisk og finsk hadde et felles urspråk for ca 3 000 år siden. I en artikkel av Dr Tapani Salminen ved Universitetet i Helsinki fra 2002 så er det grunner til å tro at det ikke har eksistert et felles samisk-finsk urspråk fordi de rekonstruerte samiske og finske urspråkene ligger nært opp til det rekonstruerte proto-uralske urspråket.

1. Finno-Saami. Sammallahti [1999: 70] presents a list of eleven features which according to him may represent innovations confined to Saami and Finnic, and which can therefore derive from Proto-Finno-Saami [cf. Sammallahti 1998: 122; cf. also Terho Itkonen 1997]. Remarkably, Sammallahti [1999: 73–74] himself questions the Finno-Saami background of the six morphological markers in the list, so their indicative value cannot be regarded as high.

Of the remaining five features, two are concerned with the lexicon. The first one correctly emphasizes the extent of common vocabulary shared by Saami and Finnic. Here, as generally in the study of lexicon, the problem is how to distinguish between retentions and innovations, because it is possible that any word has had a more extensive distribution in the past, and only internal reconstruction can occasionally shed light on the replacement of an original word with a neologism. Clear cases of substituting a common Uralic word with a Finno-Saami one do not seem to exist though. Furthermore, a number of allegedly inherited Finno-Saami words can belong to the layer of Finnic loan-words in Saami, or vice versa. Such words, lacking clear signs of either inherited or borrowed lexicon, have usually been added to the common Finno-Saami layer, which is not methodologically sound and distorts the statistical picture to some extent [cf. Lehtiranta 1989: 8].

The second lexical feature involves shared loan-words. Since equally ancient loan-words appear in only one of the two branches, it remains possible that many of the words in question have been borrowed parallelly into Saami and Finnic.

Turning to the last three, phonological features, Sammallahti [1999: 71] is the first to express doubts about the shared origin of consonant gradation in Saami and Finnic, except on a general level of common preconditions. Notably, there are at least three competing hypotheses with regard to the emergenge of gradation, so it cannot really serve as a taxonomic criterion.

We are therefore left with two sound changes, the development of labial vowels in non-initial syllables and the loss of initial labial glide in front of a labial vowel. Without dwelling into the arguments and counterarguments by Terho Itkonen [1997: 237–239] and Sammallahti [1999: 72–73], it can be maintained that these changes are not only marginal but they may have occurred in Saami and Finnic either independently or through secondary contacts.

Sammallahti [1998: 122] includes a pair of sound changes concerning the allegedly Proto-Finno-Saami merger of Proto-Uralic *x [in my view simply a voiced velar fricative] with *k. He recognizes that no trace of *k is found in Finnic, but, curiously, instead of disregarding this change as evidence for Finno-Saami, only adds that the change “may be later” than Proto-Finno-Saami [cf. Sammallahti 1998: 190].

It seems safe to conclude that the evidence for Finno-Saami as a branch deriving from a proto-language distinct from Proto-Uralic is far from convincing. Nevertheless, Sammallahti [1999: 70] asserts that several structural and lexical features common to Saami and Finnic support the assumption of Proto-Finno-Saami and that no valid structural counterarguments have been proposed. It is not immediately obvious what kind of counterarguments could in principle exist, but hopefully, it is self-evident that the burden of proof lies on those who assume a historical entity rather than on those who do not. One way of testing hypotheses such as Finno-Saami is to contrast them with potential subgroups not sanctioned by the standard binary classification, in this case notably a unit consisting of Finnic and Mordvin but not Saami.

To sum up the phonological and other evidence for the alleged proto-languages between Proto-Uralic and the level of the basic branches, it can be stated that there is very little of it. Indeed, by comparing material from any two of the nine basic branches, including pairs such as Saami and Finnic, or even just Mansi and Khanty, we reach a level of reconstruction that is very close if not essentially identical to Proto-Uralic.

Kilde: Problems in the taxonomy of the Uralic languages in the light of modern comparative studies

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