Germanic Parent Language

Germanic Parent Language

Germanic Parent Language (GPL) is a term used in historical linguistics to describe the chain of reconstructed languages in the Germanic group referred to as Pre-Germanic Indo-European (PreGmc), Early Proto-Germanic (EPGmc), and Late Proto-Germanic (LPGmc). It is intended to cover the period of time of the 2nd and 1st millennia BC. As an identifiable neologism, the term appears to have been first used by Frans Van Coetsem in 1994. It also makes appearances in the works of Elzbieta Adamczyk, Jonathan Slocum and Winfred P. Lehmann.

Absolute Chronology

Several historical linguists have pointed towards the apparent material and social continuity connecting the cultures of the Nordic Bronze Age (1800-500 BCE) and the Pre-Roman Iron Age (500 BCE - 1 CE) as having implications in regard to the stability and later development of the Germanic language group. [Lehmann (1977), for example, writes: "Possibly the most important conclusion based on archeological evidence with relevance for linguistic purposes is the assumption of 'one huge cultural area' which was undisturbed for approximately a thousand years, roughly from 1500-500 B.C. Such a conclusion in a stable culture permits inferences concerning linguistic stability, which are important for an interpretation of the Germanic linguistic data." From: "Language Contact and Inference in the Germanic Period" In: Kolb-Lauffer, et al. (eds). "Sprachliche Interferez" 278-91. Quoted from Van Coetsem (1994)] The emerging consensus among scholars is that the First Germanic Sound Shift - long considered to be "the" defining mark in the development of Proto-Germanic - happened as late as 500 BCE. [Davis (2006) p. 40; Von Coetsem (1994) 145-46; Gutenbrunner (1986) pp. 182-97.] Research conducted over the past few decades displays a notable interest in exploring the linguistic and sociohistorical conditions under which this sound shift occurred, and often formulates theories and makes reconstructive efforts regarding the periods immediately preceding Proto-Germanic as traditionally characterised. ["On setting the upper boundary of a comprehensive description of Proto-Germanic grammar, Lehmann (2005) wrote: (...) a grammar of Proto-Germanic must be a description of the language from approximately 2500 B.C. to the beginning of the common era (...)." cite book | first=Winfred | last=Lehman |title=A Grammar of Proto-Germanic | publisher=Linguistics Research Center,University of Texas | city=Austin | date=2005-07] The notion of the Germanic Parent Language is thus used to encompass both the Pre-Proto-Germanic stage of development preceding the First Germanic Sound Shift (i.e. that assumed to be contemporary with the Nordic Bronze Age) and that stage traditionally identified as Proto-Germanic up to the beginning of the Common Era. [See also Northwest Germanic]

Theoretical Boundaries

The upper boundary assigned to the Germanic Parent Language is described as "dialectical Indo-European". [Van Coetsem (1994) pp. 17; 72-73; 146-147.] In the works of both Van Coetsem and Voyles, attempts are made to reconstruct aspects of this stage of the language using a process the former refers to as "inverted reconstruction", i.e. one using the data made available through the attested daughter languages in light of and at times in preference to the results of the "comparative reconstruction" undertaken to arrive at Proto-Indo-European. [Van Coetsem (1994) p. 42. See also Voyles (1992) p. 3.] The results are not strictly standard in terms of traditional Proto-Indo-European reconstruction, but they are instead presented as characteristic of the incipient predecessor to Early Proto-Germanic, hence the terms Pre-Germanic Indo-European (Voyles) or Pre-Proto-Germanic (Van Coetsem) for this stage.

The lower boundary of the Germanic Parent Language has been tenatively identified as that point in the development of the language which preceded permanent fragmentation and which produced the Germanic daughter languages. [ Van Coetsem (1994) p. 42.]

Phonological Boundaries

In his work entitled "The Vocalism of the Germanic Parent Language", Frans Van Coetsem lays out a broad set of phonological characteristics which he considers to be representative of the various stages encompassed by the Germanic Parent Language:

*Pre-Proto-Germanic: Mora reduction.
*Early Proto-Germanic: (1) ā/ă - ō/ŏ mergers; (2) dissolution of the syllabic liquids and nasals; (3) the initiation of fricativization or the First Consonant Shift
*Late Proto-Germanic: (1) accent modification in two stages: (a) intensification in dominance followed by Verner's law; (b) fixation on the first syllable: umlaut- and accent-conditioned raising and lowering changes; reduction in non-accented position; (3) /s/ → /z/ [Van Coetsem (1994) pp. 193-94. See also Proto-Germanic Phonology]

Koivulehto (2002) further defines Pre-Germanic as " [the] language stage that followed the depalatalization of IE palatals (e.g. IE "ḱ" > PreGmc "k") but preceded the Gmc sound shift "Lautverschiebung", "Grimm’s Law", e.g. "k" > PGmc "χ")." [Koivulehto (2002:585)] Other rules thought to have affected the Pre-Germanic stage include Cowgill’s Law, which describes the process of laryngeal loss known to have occurred in most post-PIE (i.e. IE) dialects, and Osthoff’s Law, which describes rules for the shortening of long vowels, known to have applied in western dialects such as Greek, Latin and Celtic, but not in Tocharian or Indo-Iranian. Ringe (2006) suggests that it is likely that Osthoff’s Law also applied to Germanic, and that the loss of laryngeals such as h2 must have preceded the application of Grimm’s Law. [Ringe (2006:68-93)]



* cite journal | first=Elzbieta | last=Adamczyk | url='+Law-a092803246 | title=Old English reflexes of Sievers' Law | journal=Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: International Review of English Studies | date=Jan.1 2001 | publisher=The Free Library | accessdate=2007-11-14

* cite book | first=Franz | last=van Coetsem |title=The Vocalism of the Germanic Parent Language: Systemic Evolution and Sociohistorical Context | publisher=Universitätsverlag C Winter | city=Heidelberg | date=1994 | isbn =3-8253-0223-7

*cite book
last =Davis
first =Graeme
title =Comparative Syntax of Old English and Old Icelandic: Linguistic, Literary and Historical Implications
publisher =Peter Lang
date =2006
location =Bern
isbn =3-03910-270-2

*cite journal
last =Gutenbrunner
first =Siegrfried
title =Der Begriff Germanisch
journal =Current Issues in Linguistic Theory
volume =38
pages =183–198
publisher =Brogyanyi and Krömmelbein (Eds)
date =1986

* cite journal
last = Koivulehto
first = Jorma
title = Contact with non-Germanic languages II: Relations to the East
journal = The Nordic Languages: An International Handbook of the History of the North Germanic Languages (Bandle, Oscar [Ed.] )
pages = 583–593
publisher = de Gruyter
location = Berlin, New York
date = 2002

* cite book
last = Ringe
first = Don
title = [ From Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic]
publisher = Oxford University Press
date = 2006
location = New York
isbn = 0-19-928413-X

*cite book
last =Volyes
first =Joseph B.
title =Early Germanic Grammar: Pre-, Proto-, and Post-Germanic
publisher =Academic Press
date =1992
location =San Diego
isbn =ISBN 0-12-728270-X

*Jonathan Slocum and Winfred P. Lehmann: [ "Old English Online"]

*Winfred P. Lehmann (Jonathan Slocum, ed.): [ "A Grammar of Proto-Germanic"]

ee also

*Internal reconstruction

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