Voicing of Fricatives in Proto-Germanic

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Voicing of Fricatives in Proto-Germanic

Another important series of consonant changes in PG was discovered in the late 19th c. by a Danish scholar, Carl Verner. They are known as Verner’s Law. Werner’s Law explains some correspondences of consonants which seemed to contradict Grimm’s Law and were for a long time regarded as exceptions. According to Verner’s Law all the early PG voiceless fricatives [f, 0, xl which arose under Grimm’s Law, and also [si inherited from PIE, became voiced between vowels if the preceding vowel was unstressed; in the absence of these conditions they remained voiceless. The voicing occurred in early PG at the time when the stress was not yet fixed on the root-morpheme. The process of voicing can be shown as a step in a succession of consonant changes in Prehistorical reconstructed forms; consider, e.g. the changes of the second consonant in the word father:

PIE Early PG Late PG

*pa’ter > *fa`θar > *fa’ðar > >*faðar

Verner’s Law accounts for the appearance of voiced fricative or its later modifications [d 1 in place of the voiceless [θ] which ought to be expected under Grimm’s Law. In late PG, the phonetic conditions that caused the voicing had disappeared: the stress had shifted to the first syllable.

Voicing of Fricatives in Proto-Germanic (Verner’s Law)

Change illus trated Examples
PIE PG Non-Germanic Germanic
p   t     k   s Early Late f > v   θ> ð, d     x > γ, g     s> z Note: [z] in many languages became [r] L caput   L septem     O Ind satam,     R сто L pater, O Ind pitā L cunctrāri L socrus R свекровь L auris, Lith ausis old modern
Gthaubiþ, O Icel haufoð, OE hēafod [v] Gt sibun, OE seofon [v] Gt hund,O Icel hundrað, OE hund Gt fadar [ð], 0 Icel faðir, OE fæder 0 Icel hanga, OE hanzian Gt swaĭhro,OHG swigur, OE swezer Gt auso, 0 Icel eyra, OE ēare NE head Sw huvud, G Haupt, NE head Gsieben, NE seven G Hundert, Sw hundrade,NE hundred, GVater, Swfader, NE father, Sw hänga, NE hang G Schwager Sw öra,G Ohr, NE ear

Grammatical Interchanges of Consonants caused by Verner’s Law


Interchange Principal forms of the verbs
PG OG languages Infini- tive Past Tense Participle II NE
sg p1
f ~v θ~ð x~ γ s ~ z OHG f~b OE θ/ð~d0 Icel, OE x~γOE s/z — r heffen sēoðanslá slēan cēosan huob sēaðsló s1ózcēas huobun sudonslógum slōzon curon gi-haban soden sleginn slæzencoren heaue seethe slay choose



Lecture 5.

Linguistic features of Germanic languages

Grammar. Word stress. Form- building means. Vowel gradation with special reference to verbs. Simplification of Word Structure in Late PG. Strong and weak verbs.


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Form-building Means

Like other old IE languages both PG and the OG languages had a synthetic grammatical structure, which means that the relationships between the parts of the sentence were shown by the forms of the words rather than by their position or by auxiliary words. In later history all the Germanic languages developed analytical forms and ways of word connection.
In the early periods of history the grammatical forms were built in the synthetic way: by means of inflections, sound interchanges and suppletion.
The suppletive way of form-building was inherited from ancient IE, it was restricted to a few personal pronouns, adjectives and verbs.
Compare the following forms of pronouns in Germanic and non- Germanic languages:

L Fr R Gt 0 Icel OE NE

Ego je я ik ek ic I
mei mon меня meina min mīn my, mine mihi me.moi мне mis mer mē me


Vowel Gradation with Special Reference to Verbs

Vowel interchanges found in Old and Modern Germanic languages originated at different historical periods. The earliest set of vowel interchanges, which dates from PG and PIE, is called vowel gradatiori or ablaut. Ablaut is an independent vowel interchange unconnected with any phonetic conditions; different vowels appear in the same environment, surrounded by the same sounds (all the words in Table 6 are examples of ablaut with the exception of the forms containing [i] and [y] which arose from positional changes. Vowel gradation did not reflect any phonetic changes but was used as a special independent device to differentiate between words and grammatical forms built from the same root. Ablaut was inherited by Germanic from ancient IE. The principal gradation series used in the IE languages — [e~o] — can be shown in Russian examples: нecmu—ношa. This kind of ablaut is called qualitative, as the vowels differ only in quality. Alternation of short and long vowels, and also alternation with a “zero” (i.e. lack of vowel) represent quantitative ablaut:

Prolonged grade Normal or full grade (short vowel) Reduced grade

(long vowel) (neutral vowel or loss of vowel)

L legi ‘elected’ L legi ‘elect’


Simplification of Word Structure in Late Proto-Germanic.
Role of Stem-suffixes in the Formation of Declensions

Some changes in the morphological structure of the word in Late PG account for the development of an elaborate system of declensions in OG languages, and for the formation of grammatical endings.
Originally, in Early PG the word consisted of three main component parts: the root, the stem-suffix and the grammatical ending. The stem- suffix was a means of word derivation, the ending — a marker of the grammatical form. In Late PG the old stem-suffixes lost their derivational force and merged with other components of the word, usually rith the endings. The word was simplified: the three-morpheme structure was transformed into a two-morpheme structure. The original grammatical ending, together with the stem-suffix formed a new ending.

Strong and Weak Verbs .

The bulk of the verbs in PG and in the OG languages fall into two large groups called strong andweak.
The terms strong and weak were proposed by J. Grimm; he called the verbs strong because they had preserved the richness of form since the age of the parent-language and in this sense could be contrasted to weak verbs lacking such variety of form. From the verbs the terms were extended to noun and adjective declensions. The main difference between these groups lies in the means of building the principal forms: the Present tense, the Past tense and Participle II. The strong verbs built their principal forms with the help of root vowel interchanges plus certain grammatical endings; they made use of lE ablaut with certain modifications due to phonetic changes and environment.


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