English as a Germanic language

 

Main points:

 

Theory

            Most common words tend to resist analogy: e.g. was, were

 

Basic content:

            IE languages families:    Greek, Italic, Celtic, Slavic

            West/East divergence: *k

                        West: remained, e.g. Latin centum

East: *k->s (e.g. Indo-Iranian, Balto-Slavic)

            Gmc one of the last to split off

                        -some archaeological evidence

                        -references in classical texts

 

Germanic innovations:

 

            Lexicon:           New words perhaps reflect

                                                -change of culture: word for leader of large group of people

                                                -words picked up along the way: Latin

            Morphology:     ’Weak’ verb conjugation: tense marked with dental suffix

                                                -tense now distinctive parameter

                                    ‘Weak’ adjectives:

                                    Loss of some case endings

Phonology:       Transformation of IE stops

                        -obscures relationships among Germanic and other IE families

                        Word-initial stress

                                    -alliterative poetry

            Graphics:          Runic alphabet: disagreement over origins

-Strang: more cosmopolitan and learned mind than ‘scratching in wood’ might imply

           


English as a Germanic language

 

From your reading of you’ll know that IE has been subclassified into different ‘families’, with a broad distinction between west and east. The distinction is epitomized by the different developments of IE *k-

§         East: *k -> s: epitomized by the word for ‘hundred’ in one of the languages, satem

o       Eastern families include Indo-Iranian, Balto-Slavic

§         West: retained, and epitomized by Latin word centum ‘hundred’

o       Families include Italic, Hellenic, Celtic, Germanic

§         Germanic one of the last to split off

 

Evidence for existence of the Germanic family

§         archaeological: around the third millennium BC in modern Denmark/southern Sweden, apparent arrival of an archaeologically distinct group called the ‘battle-ax’ culture

o       some of them seem to have started to migrate out of this original homeland before about 300BC

§         North Germanic people stayed in Scandinavia

§         East Germanic people (Vandals, Goths, etc.) went east and south

o       Italy, Spain, North Africa

§         West Germanic: ancestors of German, Dutch, English

§         textual: around 200 BC, writings of Greek and Roman historians

o       Caesar c50BC, Tacitus 98AD

o       Germanic tribes had a tendency to wander and invade: Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Nor(th)men

§         runic: after second half of second century, runic inscriptions of Germanic peoples themselves

 

And of course linguistic

 


Lexicon

 

Common core of IE words

New words specific to Germanic culture

Others plundered from Roman empire

 

 

Morphology

 

General trend

Some innovations not always in the direction of ‘reduction’

 

Big development wrt to verbs

 

Big development with respect to adjectives (though because it didn’t survive into EmodE seems like less of a big deal)


Phonology

 

Common Gmc phonology was very different from Common IE

o       stress

o       phonological system

 

Remember that IE had a lot of stops and not many fricatives (/s/ but not /f/ or /th/)

Gmc transformed the IE stops. Broadly,

 

Known as Grimm’s law, this explains systematic differences like the ones on your list of cognates

 

There were some exceptions:

o       with the voiceless stops, the change was blocked by a preceding /s/

o       so, *p->f in father, but not with spit (Latin spuo) or star (stella) or scalp (scalpo)

o       others harder: IE /t/ sometimes became /θ/, but sometimes became /d/

o       IE *BHRAter became OE broðor (there’s been subsequent voicing)

o       IE *paTER became OE faeder (and mater became modor)

§         turned out to be corrlated with word stress

·        if the consonant (here, /t/) was preceded by an UNSTRESSED vowel (like paTER)

·        and if it’s surrounded by voiced sounds (any vowel)

o       then it gets voiced

 

The changes all had to happen in a particular order

 

And it’s interesting to contemplate where some OE words beginning with /p/ came from

 

Another major change in Gmc was the shift in word stress to the first syllable of the word (unless it was a prefix)

 

Implications of stress shift

 


Graphics

 

Distinctively Germanic alphabet called runes or (system) futhark

 

Each letter was named after a noun that began with the sound represented by the character

Called futhark after the first letters (cf abcdef)

 

Disagreement over their origins/inspiration: Latin? Greek via the Goths? Etruscan?

 

Designed probably for scratching into things: aren’t curved

 

Relatively few early inscriptions:

Most of the meaningful ones name objects or owners:

 

Developed over time