A Handbook of Germanic Etymology

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Kraehenmann says: [36]. Moreover, they were not very frequent and occurred only intervocally almost exclusively after short vowels. The pattern of allophony is not completely clear, but generally is similar to the patterns of voiced obstruent allophones in languages such as Spanish.

Older accounts tended to suggest that the sounds were originally fricatives and later "hardened" into stops in some circumstances. However, Ringe notes that this belief was largely due to theory-internal considerations of older phonological theories, and in modern theories it is equally possible that the allophony was present from the beginning. More specifically:.

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Kroonen posits a process of consonant mutation for Proto-Germanic, under the name consonant gradation. Diachronically, the rise of consonant gradation in Germanic can be explained by Kluge's law , by which geminates arose from stops followed by a nasal in a stressed syllable. However, there has been controversy about the validity of this law, with some linguists preferring to explain the development of geminate consonants with the idea of "expressive gemination". The origin of the Germanic geminate consonants is currently a disputed part of historical linguistics with no clear consensus at present.

Old Frisian stera 'id. Middle High German gupfen 'id. In the cases concerned, this would imply reconstructing an n -stem nom. Proto-Germanic had four short vowels, [41] five or six long vowels, and at least one "overlong" or "trimoric" vowel. The exact phonetic quality of the vowels is uncertain. It was a rare phoneme, and occurred only in a handful of words, the most notable being the verbs of the third weak class.

Diphthongs in Proto-Germanic can also be analysed as sequences of a vowel plus an approximant, as was the case in Proto-Indo-European. Trimoraic vowels generally occurred at morpheme boundaries where a bimoraic long vowel and a short vowel in hiatus contracted, especially after the loss of an intervening laryngeal - VHV -. However, the majority occurred in word-final syllables inflectional endings probably because in this position the vowel could not be resyllabified. Trimoraic vowels are distinguished from bimoraic vowels by their outcomes in attested Germanic languages: word-final trimoraic vowels remained long vowels while bimoraic vowels developed into short vowels.

Older theories about the phenomenon claimed that long and overlong vowels were both long but differed in tone , i.

However, this view was abandoned since languages in general do not combine distinctive intonations on unstressed syllables with contrastive stress and vowel length. By the end of the Proto-Germanic period, word-final long vowels were shortened to short vowels. Following that, overlong vowels were shortened to regular long vowels in all positions, merging with originally long vowels except word-finally because of the earlier shortening , so that they remained distinct in that position. Proto-Germanic developed nasal vowels from two sources. In many cases, the nasality was not contrastive and was merely present as an additional surface articulation.

No Germanic language that preserves the word-final vowels has their nasality preserved. Word-final short nasal vowels do not show different reflexes compared to non-nasal vowels. This allowed their reflexes to stay distinct. The nasality of word-internal vowels from -nh- was more stable, and survived into the early dialects intact. Phonemic nasal vowels definitely occurred in Proto-Norse and Old Norse. They were preserved in Old Icelandic down to at least a.

For example:. Modern Elfdalian still includes nasal vowels that directly derive from Old Norse, e. German Gans , showing the original consonant. Due to the emergence of a word-initial stress accent, vowels in unstressed syllables were gradually reduced over time, beginning at the very end of the Proto-Germanic period and continuing into the history of the various dialects. Vowels in third syllables were also generally lost before dialect diversification began, such as final -i of some present tense verb endings, and in -maz and -miz of the dative plural ending and 1st person plural present of verbs.

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Somewhat greater reduction is found in Gothic , which lost all final-syllable short vowels except u. Old High German and Old English initially preserved unstressed i and u , but later lost them in long-stemmed words and then Old High German lost them in many short-stemmed ones as well, by analogy. The outcome of final vowels and combinations in the various daughters is shown in the table below:. Note that some Proto-Germanic endings have merged in all of the literary languages but are still distinct in runic Proto-Norse , e.

Reconstructions are tentative and multiple versions with varying degrees of difference exist.

It is often asserted that the Germanic languages have a highly reduced system of inflections as compared with Greek , Latin , or Sanskrit. Although this is true to some extent, it is probably due more to the late time of attestation of Germanic than to any inherent "simplicity" of the Germanic languages. As an example, there are less than years between the Gothic Gospels of and the Old High German Tatian of , yet Old High German, despite being the most archaic of the West Germanic languages, is missing a large number of archaic features present in Gothic, including dual and passive markings on verbs, reduplication in Class VII strong verb past tenses, the vocative case, and second-position Wackernagel's Law clitics.

Furthermore, Proto-Romance and Middle Indic of the fourth century AD—contemporaneous with Gothic—were significantly simpler than Latin and Sanskrit , respectively, and overall probably no more archaic than Gothic. In addition, some parts of the inflectional systems of Greek , Latin , and Sanskrit were innovations that were not present in Proto-Indo-European. Proto-Germanic had six cases, three genders, three numbers, three moods indicative, subjunctive PIE optative , imperative , and two voices active and passive PIE middle.

This is quite similar to the state of Latin, Greek, and Middle Indic of c. Nouns and adjectives were declined in at least six cases: vocative, nominative, accusative, dative, instrumental, genitive. The locative case had merged into the dative case, and the ablative may have merged with either the genitive, dative or instrumental cases. However, sparse remnants of the earlier locative and ablative cases are visible in a few pronominal and adverbial forms. Pronouns were declined similarly, although without a separate vocative form. The instrumental and vocative can be reconstructed only in the singular; the instrumental survives only in the West Germanic languages, and the vocative only in Gothic.

Verbs and pronouns had three numbers: singular, dual , and plural. Although the pronominal dual survived into all the oldest languages, the verbal dual survived only into Gothic, and the presumed nominal and adjectival dual forms were lost before the oldest records. As in the Italic languages , it may have been lost before Proto-Germanic became a different branch at all. Several sound changes occurred in the history of Proto-Germanic that were triggered only in some environments but not in others.

Some of these were grammaticalised while others were still triggered by phonetic rules and were partially allophonic or surface filters. It was found in various environments:. Another form of alternation was triggered by the Germanic spirant law, which continued to operate into the separate history of the individual daughter languages.

It is found in environments with suffixal -t, including:. An alternation not triggered by sound change was Sievers' law , which caused alternation of suffixal -j- and -ij- depending on the length of the preceding part of the morpheme. If preceded within the same morpheme by only short vowel followed by a single consonant, -j- appeared. In all other cases, such as when preceded by a long vowel or diphthong, by two or more consonants, or by more than one syllable, -ij- appeared.

The distinction between morphemes and words is important here, as the alternant -j- appeared also in words that contained a distinct suffix that in turn contained -j- in its second syllable. This was caused by the earlier loss of -j- before -i-, and appeared whenever an ending was attached to a verb or noun with an - i j- suffix which were numerous. I-mutation was the most important source of vowel alternation, and continued well into the history of the individual daughter languages although it was either absent or not apparent in Gothic.

In Proto-Germanic, only -e- was affected, which was raised by -i- or -j- in the following syllable. Examples are numerous:. The system of nominal declensions was largely inherited from PIE. The first three were particularly important and served as the basis of adjectival declension; there was a tendency for nouns of all other classes to be drawn into them. The neuter nouns of all classes differed from the masculines and feminines in their nominative and accusative endings, which were alike.


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Adjectives agree with the noun they qualify in case, number, and gender. Adjectives evolved into strong and weak declensions, originally with indefinite and definite meaning, respectively. As a result of its definite meaning, the weak form came to be used in the daughter languages in conjunction with demonstratives and definite articles. The terms "strong" and "weak" are based on the later development of these declensions in languages such as German and Old English , where the strong declensions have more distinct endings.

In the proto-language, as in Gothic , such terms have no relevance. The proximal was already obsolescent in Gothic e. Goth acc. Old High German. Ultimately, only the distal survived in the function of demonstrative.

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In most languages, it developed a second role as definite article , and underlies both the English determiners the and that. In the North-West Germanic languages but not in Gothic , a new proximal demonstrative 'this' as opposed to 'that' evolved by appending -si to the distal demonstrative e. Runic Norse nom. The new demonstrative underlies the English determiners this , these and those. Originally, these , those were dialectal variants of the masculine plural of this.

Some of this difference is due to deflexion , featured by a loss of tenses present in Proto-Indo-European. For example, Donald Ringe assumes for Proto-Germanic an early loss of the PIE imperfect aspect something that also occurred in most other branches , followed by merging of the aspectual categories present-aorist and the mood categories indicative-subjunctive.

This assumption allows him to account for cases where Proto-Germanic has present indicative verb forms that look like PIE aorist subjunctives.

Proto-Germanic and Iranian words for "honey" and "bee"

However, many of the tenses of the other languages e. Similarly, the Latin imperfect and pluperfect stem from Italic innovations and are not cognate with the corresponding Greek or Sanskrit forms; and while the Greek and Sanskrit pluperfect tenses appear cognate, there are no parallels in any other Indo-European languages, leading to the conclusion that this tense is either a shared Greek-Sanskrit innovation or separate, coincidental developments in the two languages.

In this respect, Proto-Germanic can be said to be characterized by the failure to innovate new synthetic tenses as much as the loss of existing tenses. Later Germanic languages did innovate new tenses, derived through periphrastic constructions, with Modern English likely possessing the most elaborated tense system "Yes, the house will still be being built a month from now".

On the other hand, even the past tense was later lost or widely lost in most High German dialects as well as in Afrikaans. Verbs in Proto-Germanic were divided into two main groups, called " strong " and " weak ", according to the way the past tense is formed. Strong verbs use ablaut i.

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Strong verbs were divided into seven main classes while weak verbs were divided into five main classes although no attested language has more than four classes of weak verbs.

A Handbook of Germanic Etymology A Handbook of Germanic Etymology
A Handbook of Germanic Etymology A Handbook of Germanic Etymology
A Handbook of Germanic Etymology A Handbook of Germanic Etymology
A Handbook of Germanic Etymology A Handbook of Germanic Etymology
A Handbook of Germanic Etymology A Handbook of Germanic Etymology
A Handbook of Germanic Etymology A Handbook of Germanic Etymology
A Handbook of Germanic Etymology A Handbook of Germanic Etymology
A Handbook of Germanic Etymology A Handbook of Germanic Etymology
A Handbook of Germanic Etymology

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