Peter K. Norquest reconstructs a total of 32 Proto-Hlai consonants (Norquest 2007:135), although Weera Ostapirat reconstructs only 19 proto-consonants (Ostapirat 2007:145).
|Glottal or Implosive||ɓ||ɗ||tɕ||k||(Ci/u)ʔ|
|Tap or Trill||(Cu)ɾ, (Cu)r|
|Liquid or Glide||lj, ɾj|
In Ostapirat's (2004) reconstruction, Proto-Hlai forms can be both monosyllabic and disyllabic. Some disyllabic forms have medial consonants beginning with three penultimate vowels (*u-, *i-, *a-; the last of which is default). Vowels can also combine with *-i or *-u to form diphthongs. Tones (*A, *B, *C, *D) are also reconstructed.
In the table below, proto-Hlai consonants marked as green can occur at the end of syllables.
There is a total of 4-5 Proto-Hlai vowels in Norquest's reconstruction (Norquest 2007:238). Ostapirat (2004) reconstructs 5 vowels, which are /a, ə, i, ɨ, u/.
There are 7 possible closed rimes in Norquest's reconstruction of Proto-Hlai, not counting vowel length (Norquest 2007:330).
- For further information about the Pre-Hlai language as reconstructed by Norquest (2007), Proto-Tai language#Proto-Southern Kradai.
The transition from Pre-Hlai (the predecessor of the Proto-Hlai language ancestral to both Hlai and Jiamao) to Proto-Hlai involved the following series of sound changes (Norquest 2007:308). (Order follows that of the table of contents – not intended to be sequential)
- Elimation of Uvulars – loss of Pre-Hlai uvulars *q, *C-q, *C-ɢ
- Intervocalic Lenition – -p- > -ʋ-, -t- > -ɾ-, -k- > -ɦ-, etc.
- Initial Devoicing – loss of voiced fricatives, etc.
- Vocalic Transfer – vowel in penultimate syllable moved to last syllable
- Initial Aspiration
- Monosyllabification – Pre-Hlai, which was sesquisyllabic, was reduced to monosyllabic forms in Proto-Hlai.
- Stop and Fricative Affrication – ʈʰ > tʃʰ, cʰ > tɕʰ, etc.
- Peripheral Vowel Raising – e(:C) > i(:C), o(:C) > u(:C), ɛ:(C) > e:(C), ɔC > oC
- Monophthongization – *ɯa(C) > *ɯə(C) > *ɯ:(C), *o:y > *wi: > *i:
Or, in the sequential order given in Norquest (2007:416-417), which excludes monophthongization:
- Intervocalic lenition
- Elimation of uvulars
- Peripheral vowel raising
- Initial devoicing
- Vocalic Transfer
- Initial aspiration
- Stop and fricative affrication
After evolving from Pre-Hlai, Proto-Hlai initials went through 4 main types of sound changes (Norquest 2007:66).
- Temporal compression – reduction of constituents in the syllable; most common
- Gesture reduction
- Onset fortition – change to initial aspiration, etc.
- Systemic realignment – mergers, etc.
After the breakup of Proto-Hlai, the following sound changes occurred in various Hlai branches.
- Registrogenesis – creation of tone registers (i.e., register splits); most likely influenced by Hainanese Min Chinese
- Norquest, Peter K. 2007. A Phonological Reconstruction of Proto-Hlai. Ph.D. dissertation. Tucson: Department of Anthropology, University of Arizona.
- Ostapirat, Weera. 2004. "Proto-Hlai Sound System and Lexicons." In Studies on Sino-Tibetan Languages: Papers in Honor of Professor Hwang-cherng Gong on His Seventieth Birthday. Edited by Ying-chin Lin, Fang-min Hsu, Chun-chih Lee, Jackson T.-S. Sun, Hsiu-fang Yang, and Dah-an Ho. Institute of Linguistics. Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan: 121-175.
- Matisoff, James. 1988. "Proto-Hlai initials and tones: a first approximation." In Comparative Kadai: Linguistic studies beyond Tai. Edited by Jerold A. Edmondson and David B. Solnit. Summer Institute of Linguistics and The University of Texas at Arlington Publications in Linguistics No. 86: 289-321.
- Thurgood, Graham. 1991. "Proto-Hlai (Li): a look at the initials, tones, and finals." In Kadai: Discussions in Kadai and SE Asian Linguistics III: 1-49.
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