In yesterday's post, "Uto-Aztecan and Its Connection to Near Eastern Languages, Part 1: A Credible Proposal from Brian Stubbs?," I shared examples of cognates that follow a consistent set of sound changes from Semitic, including the change of b into Uto-Aztecan p. Stubbs assigns that group of cognates to the "Semitic-p" infusion. As we'll see in a subsequent post, the sound changes of that group also follow the sound changes seen in a another set of cognates with the Egyptian language. But there is another group of Semitic cognates which follow somewhat different sound changes, most notably the change of Semitic b to kw in Uto-Aztecan. That's my subject for today.

The Semitic-kw Infusion

The data for the Semitic-kw infusion were noticed by Stubbs first as he became curious about the possibility of a Near Eastern connection to UA. The Semitic-p cognates appeared to be exceptions to what he was finding from Semitic-kw, so he overlooked their significance for years until he later noticed Egyptian cognates showing similar sound changes to the Semitic-p “exceptions.” At that point, he realized that there could have been two separate Semitic infusions with different sound changes due to contact with different peoples or being in a different environment.  That was when the current hypotheses came together.

Stubbs sees the Semitic-kw infusion as evidence for the Mulekite’s migration to the Americas and their later merger with the Nephite people. This infusion is suggestive of a Phoenician-like Semitic in which Semitic b > UA *kw (that is, Semitic b became UA *kw). There are other sound logical sound changes for this set of cognates. The change of -r- > -y- is consistent with changes seen in other languages. In contrast to the data from Semitic-p where a final -r causes no vowel change, “the final -r of Semitic-kw causes the last vowel to rise and front to -i or -y.” Further, the voiced pharyngeal ʕ > w/o/u consistently. Some examples follow:

(4) Hebrew baašel ‘boiled, cook, ripen’ > UA *kwasïC ‘cook, ripen’

(5) Hebrew bááśaar ‘flesh, penis’ > UA *kwasi ‘tail, penis, flesh’ (r > y/i)

(6) Hebrew baalaʕ ‘swallow’ > UA *kwïluC ‘swallow’

 (7) Semitic *bahamat ‘back’ > UA *kwahami ‘back’

(24) bky / bakaay ‘cry’ > UA *kwïkï ‘cry’

(19) barr- ‘land (as opposed to sea)’ > UA *kwiya / *kwira ‘earth’ (r > y/i)

(27) brm ‘worn out, weary, bored with’ > UA *kwiyam ‘be lazy, do lackadaisically’ (r > y/i)

(1457) Arabic ṣabba ‘pour, drip, overflow’ > UA *cikwa ‘rain’

(11) Hebrew -dabber ‘speak’ > UA *tïkwi ‘say, talk, speak’ (r > y/i)

(26) Hebrew bεn ‘son’; pl: bəneey ‘children (of)’ > Nahuatl *konee ‘child, offspring’   (bǝ/bV > kwV > ko)…

 (88) ʕalaqat ‘leech’, ʕlq ‘stick, adhere’, > UA *walaka ‘snail’ (of similar slimy adhering texture)

(89) śeeʕaar ‘hair’; Arabic šaʕr / šaʕar ‘hair’ > UA *suwi ‘body hair’ (-r- > y/i)

(92) yáʕar ‘wood, forest, thicket’ > UA *yuwi / yuyi ‘evergreen species’ (-r- > y/i)…

(78) Hebrew ђeṣ ‘arrow’ > UA *huc ‘arrow’

(79) Hebrew ђmr ‘cover with, smear on’ > UA *humay ‘smear, spread, rub, paint’ (r > y/i)

While the glottal stop is often rounded in the Semitic-p data, the Semitic-kw glottal stop is not rounded. Further, it is often lost, as in these examples:

(991) Hebrew ni-qra’ ‘he/it is called/named’ > UA *nihya ‘call, name’

(1214) Hebrew mee-’ayn ‘from where?’ > Tb maa’ayn ‘where from’

In contrast to Semitic-p where doubled *-bb- > UA *-pp-, Semitic-kw data shows doubled *-bb- > UA *-kw-, similar to Semitic b > UA *kw, as in:

(1457) Arabic ṣabba ‘pour, drip, overflow’ > UA *cikwa ‘rain’

(11) Hebrew -dabber ‘speak’ > UA *tïkwi ‘say, talk, speak’

An interesting correspondence with -bb- > -kw- is Hebrew ṣaab, “lizard,” cognate with Arabic ḍabba, “cleave to the ground, take hold, keep under lock.” With Semitic -bb- > UA -kw-, these may correspond with UA cawka that can also mean “grasp, lock, lizard.” 

In reading Stubbs, the proposed change of b to kw initially seemed puzzling. The idea of b becoming p seemed natural enough, but as a non-linguist, a relationship between b and kw struck me as odd. I initially wondered if this might be an implausible sound change that shows more about creative cherry picking or the Texas Sharp Shooter fallacy  than a legitimate linguistic possibility. I think linguists may more readily appreciate the plausibility of such a sound shift since similar relationships are found in other languages and there are linguistic reasons for the relationship between the stops p, b, and kw (see “Labialized Velar Consonant,” Wikipedia).  Stubbs does mention that b > kw proposed for UA is like the relationship between p in Greek and kw in Latin, but this comes in Chapter 8 long after the Semitic-kw hypothesis has been introduced (Stubbs, Changes in Languages from Nephi to Now, 114).  Further discussion and illustration from other languages would be helpful For example, the kw sound of quattro, the number four in Italian, corresponds to the p of patru (four) in Romanian.  Other relationships between p and kw are found in a few Indo-European languages  and even in some Native American languages,  and given the closeness of p and b, to me this strengthens the case for the possibility of Semitic b > UA kw.

A few resources relevant to kw-related sound changes:
  • Henry M. Hoenigswald, “Criteria for the Subgrouping of Languages,” in Ancient Indo-European Dialects: Proceedings of the Conference on Indo-European Linguistics, Held at the University of California, Los Angeles, April 25–27, 1963, ed. Henrik Birnbaum and Jaan Puhvel (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1966), 1–12; see particularly 7;
  • In that volume also see Calvert Watkins, “Italo-Celtic Revisited,” in Ancient Indo-European Dialects, ed. Birnbaum and Puhvel, 29–50; see particularly 33, 34;
  • A discussion of the transition of a specific form of p–kw sound changes in several languages, namely *p … kw > *kw … kw, is in L. Nakhleh, “Coding of the phonological characters in the datasets (PDF),” CPHL Project (Computational Phylogenetics in Historical Linguistics), Rice University, July 2007; project page at, PDF file at 
  • Further, see Domenico Pezzi, Aryan Philology According to the Most Recent Researches (Glottologia Aria Recentissima), transl. E.S. Roberts (London, Trübner & Company, 1879), 13, 18; See also the discussion of Fick’s hypothesis at 11 regarding two k sounds in PIE, one of which became p in some languages and the other becoming c, with an intermediate sound in some languages similar to kv, which would could be the source for kw in Fick’s view. 
  • On the shift involving p and kw in Irish and Celtic, see Peter Schrijver, Language Contact and the Origins of the Germanic Languages (New York and London: Routledge, 2014), 80–82;

Further, in an early publication comparing the vocabularies among several UA languages, B.L. Whorf notes that the kw of PUA, while preserved as a kw in four UA languages, corresponds to b in two languages, Tepecano and Papago.  See B. L. Whorf, "The Comparative Linguistics of Uto-Aztecan,” American Anthropologist, 37/4 (Oct.–Dec., 1935): 600-608, citation at 607; This seems consistent with Stubbs’ hypothesis, wherein Semitic b was preserved in some cases but became kw or p in other cases. In any case, Whorf provides another example of a relationship between kw and b that strengthens the plausibility of the Semitic-kw hypothesis. (Whorf’s paper, by the way, mentions many words that are treated by Stubbs in Exploring the Explanatory power.) Perhaps Stubbs’ future works for general LDS audiences might include some related examples to help readers better appreciate the plausibility of his argument. In fact, Stubbs himself has already published an entire article (peer reviewed) dealing with the relationship between kw and b in the Uto-Aztecan family, which could be valuable to mention after introducing the Semitic-kw hypothesis. See Brian D. Stubbs, “The Labial Labyrinth in Uto-Aztecan,” International Journal of American Linguistics, 61/4 (Oct. 1995): 396–422;

There are many more examples and details in Stubbs’ work from a number of perspectives that strengthen the case for Semitic infusion, whether of the p or kw variety. The parallels between Semitic pronouns and UA pronouns, for example, seem particularly noteworthy (see Stubbs, Changes in Languages from Nephi to Now, 68–69).  There are approximately 1100 Semitic cognates, an overwhelming quantity. Some are easy-to-recognize matches, while others may be more of a stretch but still plausible, such as:

(724) Semitic parʕoš ‘flea (jumper)’ (from the Semitic verb prʕš ‘jump’) > UA *par’osi / *paro’osi ‘jackrabbit’; the jackrabbit, like the flea, is also a jumper, and in UA *paro’osi ‘jackrabbit’ we see all 4 consonants and 2 identical vowels in two of the most extraordinary jumpers of the animal kingdom.

A final example from the Semitic-kw data:
(853) Arabic xunpusaa’ / xunpus ‘beetle’; Aramaic ђippuušiit ‘beetle, n.f.’ > UA *wippusi ‘stink beetle’.… Arabic xunpus shows that Semitic *x was the original consonant, and Aramaic ђippuušiit reflects the Northwest Semitic merger (*x and *ђ > ђ). So UA *wippusi shows Phoenician/Mulekite ђ > UA w, and UA also shows the doubled *-pp- and the exact vowels of Aramaic. An amazing match! (Changes in Languages, 124)
Indeed, there are numerous amazing matches in the body of data Stubbs has provided.

Next up: The Egyptian infusion. 

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