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  • RejoinderOccam and the Proto-Austronesian "Diphthongs"
  • Adrian Clynes

In Clynes 1997, I presented arguments against the reconstruction of the sequences *-aw, *-ay, *-iw, *-uy as phonological diphthongs in PAN. Blust's (1998) response confirms the fundamental weaknesses of the contrary view. In this reply, I confine myself to making two points: (1) Blust's extended "defense of Dempwolff" at best fails to address the real issue, and (2) his proposed diphthong analysis has no explanatory power-in fact, it opens a can of worms.

Among its many problematic features is the very title of Blust's rejoinder, "In defense of Dempwolff." This "defense" is unsatisfactory in two ways: first, it avoids the issue, and second, it blames Clynes for a mistake that is Blust's own. I have in fact no argument with Dempwolff's prephonemic reconstructions. True, at one point (Clynes 1997:350), I cite the following passage by Blust:

(1) "'Apart from the consonants and vowels [emphasis added in Clynes 1997 -AC], researchers from Dempwolff onward have reconstructed a set of diphthongs. . . .' (Blust 1990:235-236)"

My purpose in citing (1) was twofold. First, to show that practitioners in the 1990s such as Blust still accepted the existence of a diphthong class in PAN. Second-as the added emphasis made clear-to show that the Austronesianist conception of a diphthong (or at least that of Blust) differs from the standard view, which is that a diphthong is a type of vowel. Blust's reference to Dempwolff was incidental to my purpose, and could have been omitted. His extended "defense" is therefore tangential to the real issue.

As it emerges from Blust 1998, Blust was incorrect in his 1990 claim that Dempwolff reconstructed a set of diphthongs. This then leads to a second, even more problematic, aspect of his "defense": he is in fact defending Dempwolff not from Clynes but from himself-from his own incorrect assertion in (1) above. Yet he (Blust 1998:357) attributes the error to Clynes:

(2) "In his tables of 'Original Austronesian' sounds, Dempwolff (1934:64, 1937:7) recognized three categories: vowel, consonant, and laryngeal, but-contrary to the assumption made by Clynes [sic! my emphasis- [End Page 404] AC]-no category of diphthongs. Why, then, does the quoted passage [i.e., passage (1) above-AC] maintain that 'researchers from Dempwolff onward have reconstructed a set of diphthongs'?"

The misattribution of error is puzzling. And since it was Blust who wrote "the quoted passage," he is presumably best placed to answer his question. More to the point, as this second citation makes clear, Dempwolff's position on the diphthongs was in total accord with my own view, that no category of diphthongs need be reconstructed. Clearly then, Dempwolff needs no defense, by me or anyone else.

"No one has ever maintained that *-aw, *-ay, *-iw, or *-uy are phonemes: they are clearly V+C sequences," says Blust (1998:361). That these sequences were not unit phonemes is exactly the point of Clynes 1997, and I am glad that Blust is in agreement. However, is it really true that "no one" has ever maintained the contrary view? At best, the practice of discussing the reconstructed diphthongs in the same breath as the vowels and consonants, with wordings like that in (1), is misleading and should be abandoned.

If the "diphthongs" are not phonemes, but sequences (presumably of phonemes), what then is the argument about? Much ado about what is phonologically not a category, as Clynes 1997 argued? No, says Blust, for while they are not unit phonemes, these sequences definitely constitute a separate natural class (1998:360). Unfortunately, just what kind of class they constitute is never stated.

If one is to argue for the adoption of a novel structure, then one must do the following:


  1. a. explain exactly what the proposed structure is;

  2. b. explain how the structure has explanatory power;

  3. c. show that it has greater explanatory power than alternative explanations.

Blust fails to meet all three requirements. On requirement (3a), Blust 1998 does refer to the final glide element as occupying the "coda," so perhaps he intends a kind of syllable rhyme unit, one where the feature specification...


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