Marguerite Hafeman <ceylon101@...> wrote in LexiLine@yahoogroups.com that:
"[T]here does not seem to be a B- syllable chart included in the wonderful series you sent out recently. Is this because B- sounds derived from P- sounds? Otherwise, is not the Egyptian word Ba as symbolic for higher consciousness or the soul, of fairly ancient origin? Also very interested in the roots of Ba-Lil. -Marguerite"
My answer to that is as follows:
The main difference between B and P -- linguists call this "voicing contrast" -- is that B is a so-called voiced labial plosive or stop and P is a so-called unvoiced labial plosive or stop, which is simply linguistic jargon for the fact that the B sound is made by using the lips to expel air and at the same time vibrating the vocal chords whereas the P sound is made by using the lips to expel air but not using the vocal chords at the same time.
It appears by and large for the most ancient scripts and languages that the MORE GUTTURAL consonants (i.e. those deeper in the throat) were both voiced and unvoiced in ancient days-- e.g. the sound "K" (unvoiced, as in "kind", where your vocal chord use only starts at the "i") and the sound "G" (voiced, as in "go" or "grind"). We see the difference in "crab" and "grab".
"K" can be a bit confusing because if you say "this is the letter K" it sounds like you are voicing the K, but you are actually voicing the following A in "Kh-AY". The unvoiced nature of K is clear in a word like seeK (see-kh) and you can whisper the initial K-sound in "cat" without using your vocal chords. Whispering "goal" on the other hand is difficult without using your voice and without it sounding like "coal".
Voicing is also the main difference in English between "chin" and "gin" where the "ch" sound is unvoiced and the "g" (dzh) sound is voiced.
The closer you get to the front of the mouth the more it appears that the ancient scripts and/or languages did not distinguish the voiced and unvoiced sounds made there, either because they did not distinguish the sounds, or, more likely, because one form or the other prevailed predominantly.
The Cypriot Syllabary, e.g., allegedly did not distinguish T and D. Linear B allegedly did not distinguish P and B (I do have one B-example for it). I tend to think that they COULD distinguish these sounds but perhaps in their particular language dialect, the one or the other form was so pervasive that it dominated.
An example of this is found e.g. in The American Heritage College Dictionary (3rd ed.) where words in English beginning with the unvoiced S run from page 1197 to 1378, i.e. ca. 80 pages, whereas for words beginning with the voiced Z, the entries run only from page 1566 to 1571, i.e. ca. 5 pages. We "recognize" the sound Z but do no use it much in English at the beginning of words. How different in English is the case for B and P, where B runs from page 98 to page 194, i.e. about 95 pages, and where P runs from page 978 to page 1116, i.e. nearly 140 pages.
When I deciphered the Phaistos Disk more than 30 years ago, I FIRST did statistics on Ancient Greek letter and syllable frequencies, and discovered that the consonant P at the beginning of words was the most frequent consonant (12% of dictionary pages according to the dictionary I used), and found that of that 12%, 25% was accounted for by the syllable "PA" and 31% was accounted for by the syllable "PR". Hence, to get a possible start on the decipherment, I assigned a PARA value to the most frequent combination on the Phaistos Disk. I reasoned if the Disk were written in a form of Ancient Greek -- that was my theory -- and if the letter distribution were typical, then the warrior-plus-round disk had to be a PARA sound, and, indeed, it is, it is! That was a bit of luck to start out, for sure. Once I had the two syllables PA-RA, the rest of the decipherment was basically a matter of due diligence in applying my statistical syllabic data. Maybe the proto-Greeks did not much distinguish P and B.
In analyzing voiced and unvoiced letters, it is instructive also to look at osbtruents and sonorants.
For the obstruents the Wikipedia writes :
"An obstruent is a consonant sound formed by obstructing airflow, causing increased air pressure in the vocal tract, such as [k], [d͡ʒ] and [f]. In phonetics, articulation may be divided into two large classes: obstruents and sonorants.For sonorants the Wikipedia writes :
Obstruents are those articulations in which there is either a total closure of the vocal tract, or a partial closure, i.e. a stricture causing friction, both groups being associated with a noise component.
Obstruents are subdivided into stops (with total closure followed by an "explosive" release of air – hence the equivalent term plosive), affricates (with at first a stop-like total closure, followed by a more controlled, fricative-style release, i.e. a stricture causing friction), and fricatives (with only limited closure, i.e. no more than a steady stricture causing friction)....
Consonant phonemes are classified as either voiced or voiceless. Some voiced phonemes of English are /b,d,g,v,z/. Each of these obstruents has an unvoiced counterpart, /p,t,k,f,s/." [emphasis added]
"In phonetics and phonology, a sonorant is a speech sound that is produced without turbulent airflow in the vocal tract: fricatives and plosives (for example, /z/ and /d/, respectively) are not sonorants. Vowels are sonorants, as are consonants like /m/ and /l/. Other consonants, like /d/ or /s/, restrict the airflow enough to cause turbulence, and so are non-sonorant. In addition to vowels, phonetic categorizations of sounds that are considered sonorant include approximants and nasal consonants. In the sonority hierarchy, all sounds higher than fricatives are sonorants. They can therefore form the nucleus of a syllable in languages that place that distinction at that level of sonority; see Syllable for details....As one can see from the obstruents and sonorants, there is nothing obscure about the sounds that we make in speaking. In fact, many of the meanings that we assign to sounds, especially in the history of language, emanate from the nature of those very natural sounds.
A typical sonorant inventory found in many languages comprises the following: two nasals /m/, /n/, two semivowels /w/, /j/, and two liquids /l/, /r/.
English has the following sonorant consonantal phonemes: /l/, /m/, /n/, /ŋ/, /ɹ/, /w/, /j/."
The simplest examples are onomatopoeic words, which sound like the concept they are assigned to, e.g. a cat MEOWS, ducks QUACK, frogs CROAK, etc. That concept can be extended further.
When we refer to OURSELVES as the SELF in words such as the English "I", German "ICH", Latin EGO or Latvian "ES", the sounds are more internally directed in our mouth. INTERNAL "me". EXTERNAL "thou", "the".
When we refer to OTHERS in words such as English "you", German "DU" or Latvian or French "TU", the sounds are more externally directed in our mouth, so that there is also a definite phonetic component to meaning as well. THERE is more outer-directed than HERE as a combination of sounds.
In Latvian and surely also for Lithuanian, as the two most archaic still spoken Indo-European languages, the above principle can easily be applied to whole series of words and concepts to show their ancient, primitive origin.
ES ESU in the Central Dialect of the Latvian of my ancestors means "I am", i.e. "being" is simply an extension of "the self". ES ESMU is the variant used by the linguists today and is already a more modern dissimilated form. It is more comparable to Latvian MĒS ESAM "we are".
"Eating", in Latvian ĒST i.e. "to eat", is sustenance, i.e. a type of SELFING, which again has the SELF, Latvian ES as the root.
"Seeing", in Latvian ACS means "eye" and is a particular form of SELFING by viewing what is seen INTERNALLY. Going from that which is SEEN by the SELF, a whole host of words for THAT SEEN have developed.
ACĪ (in Latvian that which is IN THE EYE, i.e. SEEN, is pronounced ATSĪ, but since the A is voiced it sounds nearly like ADZĪ).
What was "visible" around one led to the words for "life" and "living things", i.e. that which was "SEEN".
ES - ACĪ - ATSĪ - ADZĪ led to the following terms:
ĒŠana "eating" ACĪšana "eying"
Classical linguists alleged this was all borrowed from Latin and Greek. Right. And more Alice in Wonderland tales. The truth of things is far different.
That which was "seen" "in the eye" ACĪ "pronounced ATZĪ" then gave rise to the names for the COLORS of nature, which as one would expect in archaic Latvian, are not very dissimilated as words one from the other and all can surely be traced back to a form *ADZĪ(L) based on Latvian ZIL "blue", ZAL "gray", DZELtens "yellow", ZELts "gold" and even ZILumas "grey" (in Lithuanian). All Latvian "color words" are nearly identical. Only "red" as Latvian SARkans with the root SAR- shows greater dissimilation:
ZIL- "blue" in Latvian, also the word for "pupil" of the eye and the blue-grey "forest"
ZAL- "green" in Latvian, also the word for grass
ZEL- "gold, yellow-colored" in Latvian
DZEL- "yellow" in Latvian
ZILumas - "grey" in LithuanianAZUL- AZUR- "blue" in many languages
ZELenyj "green" in Russian
ZELtyj "yellow" in Russian
ZAIRita "yellow" in Avestan
CAERULeus "blue" in Latin
SAR- "red" in Latvian
SU [RED] in Sumerian su4; šu4; sa5; su; sa; su13; su4-su4; si5; su2 "(to be) red, brown " Akk. pelû; sāmuSORt "black" in Danish
SVARt "black in Swedish
KR- "color" in Latvian
GRey in English
KELainos"black, dark color"
Greek and in Old Hindic KALA "black"
GALanos "blue" in Greek
but in Lithuanian GELtonas "yellow"
XILos - "grass", XL- "green"
CHR- as in CHRoma "color" in GreekLatvian KRĀSAINS "colored" finds its cognates
Sanskrit KRSNA "black, dark"
but Russian KRASNYJ "the color red"
and Old Church Slavic KRASINU, Latvian KRĀSNS "beautiful".
The KR- root is found in English CL- (CoLor), i.e. the conversion R//L
but the KR- forms have already lost the interceding vowel.
It is quite clear from the above examples that many of these terms derive from a single "color" root-word which was then adapted in various only slightly dissimilated forms to distinguish the varies shades of "color" in the "color-system".
Compare to the above terms the African Bantu terms for "red":
My linguistic analysis of colors corresponds to the color discussion by Reinhard Blutner in Languages of the World: The typology of color term, where he has the following image showing how color terms develop from left to right, with fuzzy divisions according to language between the individual colors:
Citing to Kay & McDanie (1978), Kay, Berlin, Maffi & Merrifield (1997) and Kay & Maffi (1999), Blutner writes that there are "only six salient perceptual landmarks": black, white, red, green, yellow and blue.
The great German thinker Goethe wrote in his Color Theory about the color-perception of the ancients:
"Their denominations of colours are not permanently and precisely defined, but mutable and fluctuating....Their yellow, on the one hand, inclines to red, on the other to blue; the blue is sometimes green, sometimes red; the red is at one time yellow, at another blue.... If we take a glance at the copiousness of the Greek and Roman terms, we shall perceive how mutable the words were, and how easily each was adapted to almost every point in the colorific circle."
Note also that the white-black-grey (brownish, bluish) system of black and white color has a different root. The Root BL- viz BR- gives:
PELEKS "grey" in Latvian
duBLI "mud" in Latvian
whence Old Irish DUB "black" (DUB- Sumerian "tablet")
BLACK in English
BLUE in English
BLONDE in English and
BALINATS "white, bleached" in Latvian
BRown in English