Episode 5: Centum, Satem and the Letter C

A look at the early division of the Indo-European languages into the Centum and Satem languages.  The sound shift which marks the division of the Centum and Satem languages is then explored in the context of the modern English letter ‘C’. The history of the letter C is presented from its Greek origins to its modern usage.

13 thoughts on “Episode 5: Centum, Satem and the Letter C

  1. The Old English word cyning “king” is not pronounced /kining/ but [ˈkyniŋɡ]. The vowel as it still exists in today’s French mur or German müde.

    • You are correct about the pronunciation of ‘king.’ At the time I prepared this episode, I wasn’t particularly concerned about the specific pronunciations of the Old English vowels (and I mentioned that fact in a couple of episodes). However, as I started to transition into the Old English period around episode 27, I became more concerned about the pronunciation of Old English. So I think you will find that the pronunciation is a bit more accurate once you get to those episodes. (Not perfect, just a bit more accurate.)

    • Except that spellings such as cining, cincg, cing, cyneg, cyng, cyncg, cyneg, all existed, so the pronunciation of the “y” could have been /y/ or /i/ or differed by dialect or scribe. Check Bosworth-Toller.

  2. When the Fijian language was being written down, several letters of the alphabet were reassigned. D became ND as in Nadi and B became MB as in Bula. Biblical names are modified, David becomes Tevita and Elisabeth becomes Lisapeti. G sounds like the NG in singer and Q like the NG in finger. The island of Gau sounds like Now. The drink which the Polynesians call Kava is called Yaqona by the Fijians, But most significantly C sounds like the TH in the. There is no F or J in Fijian. The homeland is VITI.

  3. Kevin, this is a wonderful podcast. Thank you. I look forward to continuing. The question that comes to mind when listening to this podcast is that of ‘ck’ and where that fits. Is this covered in a bonus episode of answering our questions. If so, I wait with baited breath.
    Thanks again,

    • Hi Anna. I touch a little bit on the development of the ‘C-K’ spelling in “Episode 89: ‘I Before E’ and All That.” I discuss the evolution of that spelling the context of short vowel sounds.

  4. Kevin, by showing how root words coming from the proto-Indo-European language gave rise to cognates in its descendents which aren’t readily apparent until one is aware of the patterns of changes in pronunciation of key consonants, you’ve made seeing the parallels in each language family so much easier. Thank you for sharing this knowledge! I look forward to what I’ll learn listening to all your episodes. In the first six, I’ve found answers to language questions I’ve had for years.

  5. It might look funny to say I’ve heard 6 episodes in a comment for #5, but I was re-listening to #5 when I wrote my previous comment!

  6. Pingback: Cider By Any Other Letters Spells As Sweet | Pommel Cyder

  7. Hello Kevin,

    Big thanks for creating these superb podcasts – full of wonderful information! So many rich insights into what shaped English, its alphabet and its irregularities that I have wondered about..

    In this episode (5:20), you said, the work for hundred in Sanskrit is “satam”. The correct word is “shatam”.

    • Thanks for the note. It’s funny because many of may sources say that “satem” in the Sanskrit form of the word, but upon further research, you are correct. It is the Avestan form of the word.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.