CaR vs. Ca-aR spellings in Hittite: evidence for a phonemic distinction between /ə/ and /a/

Alwin Kloekhorst* and Erik Mens*

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* – Leiden University. Email (corresponding author):

Cite as Kloekhorst, A., Mens, E. 2021: CaR vs. Ca-aR spellings in Hittite: evidence for a phonemic distinction between /ə/ and /a/. Hungarian Assyriological Review 2: 241–262.



Inspired by earlier work on the distribution between the sign kán and the sign sequences k/g/qa-an in Hittite texts (Frotscher forthcoming), this article investigates the Hittite usage of three more cuneiform signs of the structure CaR (pár, ḫal and tar) vis-à-vis their corresponding Ca-aR spellings (pa-ar, ḫa-al, t/da-ar). It is argued that the distribution between CaR and Ca-aR spellings is not random, but etymologically determined: consistent spelling with CaR reflects PIE *CR̥ and *CeR[C], whereas alternation between CaR and Ca-aR reflects PIE *CoR. This is interpreted as evidence for a synchronic phonetic / phonemic distinction between the two types of spelling: consistent CaR renders the vowel /ə/, whereas alternation between CaR and Ca-aR denotes the vowel /a/.

Keywords: Hittite, cuneiform script, phonology, Indo-European

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Copyright: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Data availability. The author confirms that the data supporting the findings of this study are available within the article.

Disclosure statement. No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author.

Funding statement. The author received no financial support for the research and the publication of this article.



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