How far can we go in reconstructing the chronology and relative chronology of
sound changes in Middle Western Karaim?
A Kipchak language behind the Hebrew script
(60th Meeting of the PIAC, Székesfehérvár 2017)
The talk aims at presenting the difficulties one must face when it comes to reconstructing the way the Middle Western Karaim phonological system evolved in the 17th-18th centuries. The recent discovery of several hundreds of unknown manuscripts gives us an opportunity to broaden our knowledge about the history of this language. Given that these texts are written in Hebrew script (in its Karaite semi-cursive variety), any kind of linguistic investigation is somewhat difficult and needs a complex approach. The historical-linguistic, philological methods and palaeography are, obviously, of great importance in the process of reconstructing the chronology and relative chronology of the sound changes and the way they operated. However, the paper aims to emphasize also the importance of the reconstruction of the microhistorical context of the creation of the respective manuscripts as well as the difficulties connected with establishing the date of their creation.
The discussion, based on the linguistic testimony of a great number of manuscripts from this period, touches upon the *ŋ > i̯ change and the history of the consonant harmony in the north-western dialect as well as the history the *š > s, the *ö > e, and the *ü > i change in the south-western dialect.