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Consonants. Proto-Germanic consonant shift. Slide 8





Word Stress

Common phonetic characteristics of the Germanic languages.

Lecture 4

All the Germanic languages of the past and present have common linguistic features; some of these features are shared by other groups in the IE family, others are specifically Germanic.

It is known that in ancient IE, prior to the separation of Germanic, there existed two ways of word accentuation: musical pitch and force stress Slide 1. The position of the stress was free and movable Slide 2., which means that it could fall on any syllable of the word – a root-morpheme, an affix or an ending – and could be shifted both in form-building and word-building. Both these properties of the word accent were changed in PG. Slide 3.Force and expiratory stress became the only type of stress used. In Early PG word stress was still as movable as in ancient IE Slide 4.but in Late PG its position in the word was stabilized. Slide 5. The stress was now fixed on the first syllable, which was usually the root of the word and sometimes the prefix; the other syllables – suffixes and endings – were unstressed. Slide 6. The stress could no longer move either in form-building or word-building. Slide 7.

The consonants in Germanic look ‘shifted’ as compared with the consonants of non-Germanic languages. The changes of consonants in PG were first formulated in terms of a phonetic law by Jacob Grimm in the early 19th c. and are often called Grimm’s Law. It is also known as the First or Proto-Germanic consonant shift. Slide 9. Grimm’s Law had three acts:

1. The IE voiceless stops [p], [t], [k] became Germanic voiceless fricatives [f], [th], [x]

2. IE voiced stops [b], [d], [g] became Germanic voiceless stops [p], [t], [k]

3. PIE aspirated voice stops [bh], [dh], [gh] became PG voiced stops [b], [d], [g] without aspiration. Slide 10.

Another important series of consonant changes in PG was discovered in the late 19th c. by a Danish scholar, Carl Verner. Slide 11.They are known as Verner’s Law. Verner’s Law explains some correspondences of consonants which seemed to contradict Grimm’s Law and were for a long time regarded as exceptions. Slide 12.



According to Verner’s Law all the early PG voiceless fricatives [f, th, x] which arose under Grimm’s Law, and also [s] inherited from PIE, became voiced between vowels if the preceding vowel was unstressed; in the absence of these conditions they remained voiceless. Slide 13.

The voicing occurred in early PG at the time when the stress was not yet fixed on the root-morpheme. Slide 14.

The sound ‘z’ was further affected in western and northern Germanic: z→r. This process is known as Rhotacism. Slide 15.

As a result of voicing by Verner’s Law there arose an interchange of consonants in the grammatical forms of the word, termed grammatical interchange.Slide 16.

Part of the forms retained a voiceless fricative, while other forms – with a different position of stress in Early PG – acquired a voiced fricative. Slide 17.

Both consonants could undergo later changes in the OG languages, but the original difference between them goes back to the time of movable word stress and PG voicing.Slide 18.

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