Ingvaeonic languages

Ingvaeonic languages
Distribution of the primary Germanic groups ca. 1 CE.

Ingvaeonic /ˌɪŋviːˈɒnɪk/, also known as North Sea Germanic, is a postulated grouping of the West Germanic languages that comprises Old Frisian, Old English[1] and Old Saxon.[2]

Ingvaeonic is named after the Ingaevones, a West Germanic cultural group or proto-tribe along the North Sea coast. It is not thought of as a monolithic proto-language, but rather as a group of closely related dialects that underwent several areal changes in relative unison.[3]

The grouping was first proposed in Nordgermanen und Alemanen (1942) by German linguist and philologist Friedrich Maurer (1898-1984), as an alternative to the strict tree diagrams which had become popular following the work of 19th century linguist August Schleicher and which assumed the existence of a special Anglo-Frisian group.[4] The other groupings are Istvaeonic, from the Istvaeones, including Netherlandic, Afrikaans, and related languages; and Irminonic, from the Irminones, including the High German languages.


Linguistic evidence for Ingvaeonic are common innovations observed in Old Frisian, Old English and Old Saxon such as the following:

  • The so-called Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law, which (e.g.) converted *munþ "mouth" (cf. Old High German mund) into *mūþ (cf. Old English mūþ).
  • The loss of the Germanic reflexive pronoun
  • The reduction of the three Germanic verbal plural forms into one form ending in
  • The development of Class III weak verbs into a relic class consisting of four verbs (*sagjan "to say", *hugjan "to think", *habjan "to have", *libjan "to live")
  • The split of the Class II weak verb ending *-ō- into *-ō-/-ōja-
  • Development of a plural ending *-ōs in a-stem nouns (note, Gothic also has -ōs, but this is an independent development, caused by terminal devoicing of *-ōz)
  • Possibly, the monophthongization of Germanic *ai to ē/ā (this may represent independent changes in Old Saxon and Anglo-Frisian)


  1. ^ Also known as Anglo-Saxon.
  2. ^ Some include West Flemish. Cf. Bremmer (2009:22).
  3. ^ For a full discussion of the areal changes involved and their relative chronologies, see Voyles (1992).
  4. ^ Friedrich Maurer (Lehrstuhl für Germanische Philologie - Linguistik)

Further reading

  • Bremmer, Rolf H. (2009). An Introduction to Old Frisian. Amsterdam: John Benjamins B.V. ISBN: 978-90-272-3255-7.
  • (German) Sonderegger, Stefan (1979). Grundzüge deutscher Sprachgeschichte. Diachronie des Sprachsystems. Band I: Einführung – Genealogie – Konstanten. Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-003570-7.
  • Volyes, Joseph B. (1992). Early Germanic Grammar: Pre-, Proto-, and Post-Germanic. San Diego: Academic Press. ISBN: 0-12-728270-X.
  • Maurer, Friedrich (1942) Nordgermanen und Alemannen. Studien zur germanischen und frühdeutschen Sprachgeschichte, Stammes- und Volkskunde, Bern: Francke Verlag.

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