Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law


Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law

In historical linguistics, the Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law (also called the Anglo-Frisian or North Sea Germanic nasal spirant law) is a description of a phonological development in some dialects of West Germanic, which is attested in Old English, Old Frisian, and Old Saxon. By this sound change, in the combination vowel + nasal + fricative, the nasal disappeared, with compensatory lengthening of the vowel. ("Spirant" is an older term for "fricative".) The sequences in question are original "-ns-", "-mf-", and "-nþ-".

Compare the first person plural pronoun "us" in various old Germanic languages:
*Old English "ūs"
*Old Frisian "ūs"
*Old Saxon "ūs"
*Old High German "uns"
*Middle Dutch "ons"
*Gothic "uns"

Gothic represents East Germanic, and its correspondence to German and Dutch shows it retains the more conservative form. The /n/ has disappeared in English, Frisian and Old Saxon, with compensatory lengthening of the /u/.

Likewise:
*Germanic "*tanþ-" becomes English "tooth", Old Frisian "tōth" (cf. Low German "Tähn", Dutch "tand", German "Zahn").
*Germanic "*anþara-" becomes English "other", West Frisian "oar", East Frisian "uur", Old Saxon "āthar" (cf. German & Dutch "ander-" [þ→d] ).
*Germanic "*fimf" becomes English "five", West Frisian "fiif", East Frisian "fieuw", Dutch "vijf", Low German "fiev, fief" (cf. German "fünf").
*Germanic "*samft-" becomes English "soft", West Frisian "sêft", Low German "sacht", Dutch "zacht" [ft→xt] (cf. German "sanft").
*Germanic "*gans-" becomes English "goose", West Frisian "goes", Low German "Goos" (cf. Dutch "gans", German "Gans").

Note that Dutch is inconsistent, following the law in some words but not others; this must be understood in terms of the standard language drawing from a variety of dialects, only some of which were affected by the sound change.Fact|date=June 2007 Similarly, certain North German dialects retain Old Saxon forms, with the result that very few words in Modern Standard German have this shift: alongside "sanft" German also has "sacht", both meaning "soft", "gentle".

One consequence of this is that English has very few words ending in "-nth"; those which do exist must be more recent than the productive period of the Anglo-Frisian nasal spirant law:
*"month" - in Old English this was "monaþ" (cf. German "Monat"); the intervening vowel made the law inoperable.
*"tenth" - a neologism in Middle English. Germanic "*tehunþ-" did originally follow the law, producing Old English "tēoþa" (Modern English "tithe"), but the force of analogy to the cardinal number "ten" caused Middle English to recreate the regular ordinal.
*"plinth" - a Greek loan-word in Modern English (Polytonic|πλίνθος).

References

*Markey, Thomas L. "Germanic dialect grouping and the position of Ingvæonic."(Inst. f. Sprachwissenschaft d. Univ. Innsbruck, 1976.) ISBN:3851245296


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