Viacheslav A. Chirikba
Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia; D. I. Gulia Abkhaz Institute for Humanitarian Research, Academy of Sciences of Abkhazia, Sukhum, Abkhazia; email@example.com
Modern Circassian languages (Adyghe and Kabardian) have a threefold vocalic system based on the degree of openness: open /а/, close /e/, and mid /ə/. The article analyzes the distribution and phonotactics of Circassian vowels in CVCV syllabic chains. The disyllabic words of structure #CVCV# have the following options of vowel distribution: СaСa, СaСe, СeCa, СaСə, СеСе, СеСə, СəСа, СəСе, СəСə. In the sequence /V+V/, the vowel /e/ is always assimilated to /a/, and /ə/ is always assimilated to /a/ or /e/. As in Abkhaz, but unlike in Ubykh, in Circassian languages combinations of vowels are always realized as one vocalic sound (/V+V/ = [V]). Most authors do not question the existence of at least two phonemic vowels in Proto-Circassian. As for the late stage of Proto-Circassian, which can be called Common Circassian, in contrast to the two-term vocalism of the early language, a threefold system *a ~ *e ~ *ə appears to have developed at that point. The contrast *a ~ *e, thus, does not go deeper than the late Proto-Circassian (i.e., Common Circassian) period and is the result of phonologization of the positional allophonic contrast *[a] ~ *[e]. The so-called “rule of two open syllables” is discussed. On the basis of vocalic correspondences between Circassian languages, a three-term vocalic system of Common Circassian is reconstructed. The author also discusses exceptions and irregular vocalic correspondences.
Chirikba V. A. Distributive patterns of Circassian vowels and reconstruction of the Common Circassian vowel system. Voprosy Jazykoznanija, 2023, 4: 7–20.