> So, how would you go about creating, in historical fashion, a language
> with an ablaut morphology from a strictly concatenative one?

i've never read extensively about *origin* theories of the PIE ablaut
system.  but alex is surely on the right track (conlangwise i've given this
quite a bit of thought - ablaut is sexy as hell): you need to have original
environmental factor affecting your vowels from the outside in.  as alex
pointed out this could well be some umlaut-triggering /i/ or /u/.

another idea is first to somehow get some differentiation based on vowel
length, which can arise from something as easy as stress/unstress.  consider
the following stilted example (the stress/unstressed forms can have whatever
semantic significances you want):
min                         mín
min                         mīn         stress > length
min                         main        "great vowel shift" /i:/ > /ai/
bam!  now you've got this little intrusive /a/ just like the intrusive /e/
and /o/ in PIE, which you can do whatever you want with.  maybe your stress
thing comes back and you're left with
min    mín   main   máin
men   min   mān    main
obviously you can apply these ideas to verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc.


On Thu, Jul 28, 2011 at 8:20 AM, Matthew Boutilier
<[log in to unmask]>wrote:

>   *mu:s     *my:s-i   i-ablaut
> for the sake of historical linguistic correctness: i believe you mean
> "umlaut" (or i-mutation).
> they both have to do with the variation of some internal vowel but "ablaut"
> usually refers specifically to the somewhat mysterious vowel gradation
> patterns inherited from proto-indo-european (maybe has been extended in
> meaning to other branches, but not that i know of), ultimately stemming from
> the variation in PIE between what have been reconstructed as long and short
> vowel pairs e(:) and o(:) as well as a "null vowel" Ø (the latter generally
> triggering syllabic allophony of nearby "consonants" /j/ /w/ /r/ /l/).
> ... whereas "umlaut" ("round-sound") refers to the fronting effect of a
> subsequent front vowel (i.e. the /i/ above) on a preceding back, usually
> rounded, vowel - applied most copiously in germanic linguistics (like your
> example) but obviously similar changes occur the world over.
> matt
>   On Thu, Jul 28, 2011 at 12:39 AM, Alex Fink <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> On Wed, 27 Jul 2011 17:58:22 -0400, neo gu <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> >So, how would you go about creating, in historical fashion, a language
>> >with an ablaut morphology from a strictly concatenative one?
>> This happens all the time by sound change (of course analogy to smooth
>> things over is good too).  The most common pattern goes like this: the
>> main
>> vowel of a base is fronted by a following [i], or lowered by an [a], or
>> raised by a high vowel, or so on; then the contrast between these
>> following
>> vowels is lost (perhaps the vowels are lost entirely), leaving only the
>> main
>> vowel to carry the distinction.  A standard English example of this are
>> the
>> following developments:
>> *mu:s     *mu:s-i   -i is a plural marker
>> *mu:s     *my:s-i   i-ablaut
>> *mu:s     *my:s     loss of final vowels
>> *mu:s     *mi:s     unrounding of front vowels
>> "mouse"   "mice"    (this after the great vowel shift)
>> Of course any sort of change whereby a word-internal sound can react to
>> material present in some affixes will suffice for this.  You could start
>> instead from metathesis (e.g. with vowels, [manu] > [maun] > whatever
>> development; this happens in Roger Mills' favourite Austronesian langs),
>> or
>> stress alternations (e.g. this will have been the ultimate origin of the
>> PIE
>> ablaut), or syllable-structure sensitive changes (e.g. the Uralic
>> gradations, originally conditioned as onset weakening in a closed
>> syllable),
>> or so on.
>> Alex