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Sound Shifts in Old High German

To what extent and in what ways can it be argued that the Second Sound Shift is ‘less thorough’ than the First?

Essay 2011 8 Pages

German Studies - Linguistics

Excerpt

2. Give an account (with appropriate examples) of both the First and Second Sound Shifts. To what extent and in what ways can it be argued that the Second Sound Shift is ‘less thorough’ than the First?

“We find parallels to some of these shifts in other Indo-European languages... but in their entirety they constitute the chief distinguishing mark of Germanic.” (Priebsch & Collinson 1978: 58). The First and Second Sound Shifts are terms which refer to two series of consonant changes in the development of the Germanic forms from which Modern Standard German has evolved. In both cases the shifts affected stop consonants: the first resulted in the Germanic languages from Proto-Indo-European; the second in the Old High German dialects from the Germanic languages.

The First Sound Shift, also called the Germanic Sound Shift, Grimm’s law or die erste Lautverschiebung, affected all of the many stop consonants found in Proto-Indo-European; most changed, some disappeared but none escaped alteration. The dates are uncertain, but this shift is thought to have taken place from 1200 to 450 BC (“...not all of [the changes] were complete before the Germanic languages separated from each other” (Chambers & Wilkie 1970:18)). Though Rasmus Rask was the first person to discover them, Jakob Grimm was the first to tabulate and examine the changes in detail. They are as follows:

The voiced stop consonants shifted to their voiceless equivalents.

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Examples include (Latin and Old High German forms, or modern standard German where the latter is not convenient):

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The voiceless and voiceless aspirated stops became voiceless fricatives.

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Examples (also using English where German does not satisfactorily demonstrate change) :

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The voiced aspirated stops morphed into voiced stops or voiced velar fricatives.

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Examples (Indo-European to Old High German) :

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There are, of course, exceptions to these general rules. When followed by a ‘t’, ‘k’ and ‘p’ became ‘x’ and ‘f’; a partial shift. When preceded by an ‘s’, ‘k’, ‘p’ and ‘t’ remained the same.

Over the years several theories have been disseminated on the subject of the First Sound Shift, especially concerning the reasons behind it, but no satisfactory conclusion has yet been reached. One idea suggests that these sound changes may have improved the language for the speakers, the Germanic peoples. “Lass (1924) explains the First Sound Shift as occurring solely to get rid of the ‘unnatural’ sounds bh, dh, gh, which are not very common in the languages of the world. “ (Russ 1978: 37). While it follows that the Proto-Indo-European consonant system was extensive and somewhat over complicated, especially when compared to the modern Indo-European languages, it is difficult to believe that such a thorough system of changes occurred spontaneously.

Bibliography

1. Chambers, W. Walker, Wilkie, John R. (1970) A Short History of the German Language. Suffolk: Metheun & Co Ltd.
2. Priebsch, R., Collinson, W.E. (1978) The German Language. London: Faber & Faber Limited.
3. Russ, Charles V. J. (1978) Historical German Phonology and Morphology. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
4. Wiese, Richard (1996) The Phonology of German. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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Details

Pages
8
Year
2011
ISBN (eBook)
9783656953739
ISBN (Book)
9783656953746
File size
518 KB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v298980
Institution / College
University of Birmingham
Grade
69
Tags
sound shifts high german second shift first

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Title: Sound Shifts in Old High German