A New Look at Onset Transfer in Indo-European Reduplication: Dissimilation of Consonant Clusters

Hyung-Soo Kim 1 ,
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1Hankuk University of Foreign Studies/Jeonju University
Corresponding Author: Professor (Emeritus) Dept. of English Education Jeonju University 303 Cheonjamro, Wansan-gu, Jeonju, Jeonbuk 55069, Korea , E-mail:

ⓒ Copyright 2020 Language Education Institute, Seoul National University. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Received: Oct 31, 2019 ; Revised: Jan 06, 2020 ; Accepted: Jan 29, 2020

Published Online: Apr 30, 2020


A new typology of onset cluster reduplication is proposed in Indo-European languages on three premises: 1) Partial reduplication in Indo-European copies the onset cluster in toto; 2) The canonical form of Grassmann’s Law type of dissimilation occurs between two complex segments that are sufficiently similar; 3) Such dissimilation of complex segments typically occurs preferentially to an obstruent plus resonant (TR) cluster and to a sibilant plus obstruent (ST) cluster only as a generalization of the preferential rule. The analysis shows that, of the four logically possible rule combinations in the reduplication of TR- vs. ST-initial roots, only three actually occur in Indo-European languages. The fourth type, in which an ST cluster is reduced but a TR cluster remains, is excluded, as it violates the preferential order of dissimilation of consonant clusters. This paper also explains why Sanskrit and Old Irish reduce the ST-initial clusters differently. If the ST cluster acts as a complex segment, the more sonorant S drops, as in the Sanskrit perfect stem ta-stambh- “prop,” but if it acts as a consonant cluster, the less sonorant T drops, as in the Old Irish preterit stem se-scaind- “spring off.” This analysis offers a more coherent typology than Zukoff’s (2017), which does not properly explain the across- the-board C2-copying, a pattern predicted to occur by his permutation of constraints, yet unattested in Indo-European languages and universally non- existent.

Keywords: reduplication; onset cluster; dissimilation; factorial typology; Sanskrit; Gothic; Greek; Old Irish; Indo-Europeanv



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