First sound shift

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The Germanic (in the Germanic context “first”) sound shift (technical language for short “Grimm”, also called Grimm's law in English ) marks the transition from the (original) Indo-European to the (original) Germanic consonant system . This sound shift resulted in a clear differentiation between ( pre- ) Germanic and the other differentiating Indo-European languages . It probably took place in the second half of the 1st millennium BC. Chr. Instead.

Within early Germanic, the first sound shift marks the transition from pre- to primitive Germanic. The second sound shift later led to the development of High German .

The phonetic law of the first phonetic shift was discovered by Friedrich Schlegel in 1806 and by Rasmus Christian Rask in 1818 and formulated by Jacob Grimm in 1822 (hence Grimm's law or Rask - Grimm law , Rask's Grimm's rule ). However, Johann Arnold Kanne had already described the principle of the phenomenon earlier.


An exact dating of the first phonetic shift is not possible, but it is consistent with the time after 500 BC. Settled because several loanwords that were not before the 5th century BC. Were taken over from the southeast into Germanic, have already carried out the first sound shift. The two most important examples of this are the probably Scythian words * kanbā ' hemp ' (cf. osset. Gæn (æ) , hotansak. Kaṃhā ; from this source also comes the Greek kánnabis ( κάνναβις ) ), which in ancient Germanic after the sound shift * χanapiz read, and * baitā 'shepherd's skirt', which in the Urgermanic to * paiđō (cf. ahd. pfeit 'undergarment', from which Bavarian path 'shirt') became.

A few Germanic names suggest that the first sound shift, at least in the west of the Germanic language area, may not have occurred until the 1st century BC. Has come to a conclusion. The most important examples are:

  1. The tribal names Cimbri and Teutons (Latin cimbri teutonique ; not about chimbri theudonique , as expected after the sound shift). These two names contain a total of three examples of phonetic shifting.
  2. The river name Vacalus (= the Waal , one of the two great estuary arms of the Rhine) handed down to Caesar ; about 150 years later, Tacitus Vahalis is writing .
  3. The tribal name tencteri = the Tenkerians , not * then (c) hteri . However, this name is only an example of the first sound shift that has not yet been carried out if the Germanic etymology * þenχteraz (cf. Zimmer 2006: 572f.), Which is mostly accepted for this name, applies.
  4. The finding of four tribal names, the Caesar in Bell, is ambiguous. Gall. 2,4,10 enumerates in the area of ​​the Meuse : "Condruses, Eburones, Caerosos, Paemanos, qui uno nomine Germani appellantur" ( Condruser , Eburonen , Caeroser and Paemanen , which are called by a name Germanic.) Although Caesar explicitly called these tribes Designated Germanic , the research has nevertheless mostly assumed that only the name "Eburones" is Germanic (with completed sound shift), while the other three names are mostly regarded as Celtic . If they were Germanic, they would have a sound level before the first sound shift (cf. Euler 2009: 69).

Since no Latin loan word in one of the Germanic languages ​​has carried out the sound shift, this must have been completed before the spread of Latin in Central Europe from the 1st century AD. Also the fact that the primitive Germanic language unit gradually dissolved from this time at the latest, but all Germanic languages ​​have carried out the sound shift completely, presupposes that this sound change was completed around the birth of Christ in all parts of the Germanic language area.

Unless the inscription on the negau helmet B Germanic name Harigastiz testified, and possibly beyond with teiva- (see anord.. Týr , god of war ', Tivar ' gods') also an analogue of altlateinisch deiuos (from which Lat. Deus , plural . divī ), this testimony confirms that the first sound shift already occurred by 50 BC at the latest. BC (at least in this dialect, which not only has a clearly Germanic effect, but also seems to be very close to the original Germanic) must have been completed.

The fact that the first sound shift in the development of early Germanic could have happened relatively late is confirmed by the fact that within the three Indo-European " closure sound series " ( Tenues , Mediae and Mediae aspiratae), which were affected by this sound change, none of the Germanic individual languages Mixing has occurred. An early shift of these 3 × 4 consonants would with high probability have led to mixing, for example through assimilation or dissimilation, up to the beginning of the tradition of the Germanic individual languages . In any case, the continued exact separation of the three rows of plosives in Ur-Germanic necessarily requires that the media b, d, g and geten first hardened into the tenues p, t, k and k als when the tenues inherited from Indo-Germanic were (at least) through aspiration clearly differentiated from the new tenues.

Change of plosives

This sound law describes the transformation of the Urindo-European plosives in the first millennium BC. To the ancient Germanic counterparts. It attests to some regular correspondences between early Germanic plosives and fricatives with voiced plosives of other Indo-European languages, with Grimm mainly referring to Latin and Greek. In the traditional version it took place in the following three phases:

  1. Urindo-European voiceless plosives change to voiceless fricatives (Tenuis-Spirans change).
  2. Urindo-European voiced plosives become voiceless plosives (Media-Tenuis change).
  3. Urindo-European voiced aspirated plosives become voiced fricatives (media aspirata - media change); Ultimately, these voiced fricatives became voiced plosives in most Germanic languages.

The voiced aspirated plosives could originally have been voiced fricatives before they hardened under certain conditions to the voiced unaspirated plosives b , d and g , which, however, is disputed by some linguists (cf. primitive Germanic phonology ).

This sound shift was the first significant systematic sound change to be discovered in linguistics. Its formulation was a turning point in the development of linguistics, as it enabled the introduction of a rigorous methodology in historical-linguistic research. The phonetic law was first discovered in 1806 by Friedrich von Schlegel and in 1818 by Rasmus Christian Rask and worked out by Jacob Grimm in 1822 with reference to standard German in his work Deutsche Grammatik .

Language examples

The results of the first sound shift are sometimes obscured by the effects of later sound changes in the Germanic individual languages. The best-known example is the High German sound shift mentioned above . The following are the most vivid examples of the first sound shift carried out in all Germanic languages:

Change non-Germanic, unshifted ex. Germanic, postponed ex.
* p → f 1) agricul. pū́s ( πούς ), Latin pēs ( Gen. pedis ), aind. pā́t ( acc . pā́dam ), Russian pod ( под ), lit. pėda
2) lat. piscis , ir. iasc
1) German foot , engl. foot , got. fōtus , iceland . fótur, dan. fod , norw. swed. fot
2) dt. fish , engl. fish , swedish fisk , got. fisks
* t → þ [θ] Greek trítos ( τρίτος ), alb. tretë , lat. tertius , gäl . treas , aind. tritá , Russian trétij ( третий ), lit. trẽčias , toch. A kick , B kick ahd. thritto (dt. third ), engl. third , got. þridja , iceland . þriðji
* k → χ → h 1) Greek kíon ( κύων ), Latin canis , ir.
2) Latin capiō , bret. kavout , alb. kap
3) Latin cor (Gen. cordis ), heart, air. cride , Greek kardiá ( καρδιά ), het. kardi (Dat.)
1) German dog , nl. hond , engl. hound , got. hunds , iceland . hundur , dan. norw. swed. dog
2) dt. to have , engl. have , order . hafa , got.haban
3) German heart , nl. hard , engl. heart , Swedish hjärta , got. haírtō
* kʷ → hʷ lat. quod , awal. pa , avest. ka , aind. kád , lyd. - cod ahd. hwaz (dt. what ), aengl. hwæt (English what ), got. ƕa , iceland . hvað , dan. hvad , norw. hva
* b → p 1) Latin verbera (plur.) 'Rods for chastisement, whip', lit. vir̃bas 'rice, sticks , whip', Russian vérba ( верба ) 'pasture'
2) lit. dubùs ' deep ', wal. dwfn , Russian (older) debr' ( дебрь ) 'forest, valley, gorge'
1) nl. werpen , engl. warp , swedish värpa , got. wairpan 'turn'
2) nl. diep , nd. engl. deep , swed. djup , got. diups 'deep'
* d → t lat. decem 'ten', ir. dike , Greek déka ( δέκα ), aind. dáśa , Russian désjat ' ( десять ), lit. dešimt nd. teihn 'ten', nl. tien , engl. ten , got. taíhun , iceland . tíu , dan. norw. ti , swedish tio
* g → k 1) Latin gelū , agriech. gelandrós 'cold', lit. gelumà 'great cold'
2) Latin augeō 'I multiply', agriech. aúxein , lit. áugti , toch. A ok -, B auk -
1) German cold , nl. koud , engl. cold , norw. kald , got. kalds
2) ahd. ouhhōn , engl. eke , order. auka , got. aukan 'grow'
* gʷ → kʷ lit. gývas 'living', Russian živój ( живой ) 'living', aind. jīvā ahd. Quek (dt. keck ), nl. kwiek , nd. engl. quick , got.qius , swedish kvick 'alive'
* bʰ → b lat. frāter , ir. bráthair , Russian brat ( брат ), aind. bhrātā German brother , nl. broeder , engl. brother , got. broþar , iceland . bróðir , dan. swed. broder
* dʰ → d wal. dôr 'door', lit. dùrys , Russian dver ' ( дверь ), alb. derë , aind. dvā́r- nd. Döör 'door', nl. deur , engl. door , got. daúr , iceland . dyr , dan. norw. dør
* gʰ → g 1) Russian gost ' ( гость )' guest ', Latin hostis
2) air. géiss 'swan', pol. gęś
1) German guest , nl. guest , aengl. Giest , Swed. gäst , got. guest
dt 2). Gans , nl. goose , engl. goose , iceland. gæs , dan. norw. swedish gås
* gʷʰ → gʷ → w toch. A kip , B kwípe 'shame, shame' German woman * , nl. wijf , engl. wife , iceland. víf , dan. swed. norw. viv
*Some linguists dispute this origin of the word woman . Calvert Watkins takes the Indo-European * gʷʰíbʰ- as an approach.

This is remarkably regular. Each phase contains only a single change, which includes the labial ( p, b, bʰ, f ) and dental sounds ( t, d, dʰ, þ ) as well as the velar ( k, g, gʰ, h ) and rounded velar sounds ( kʷ, gʷ, gʷʰ, hw ). The first phase took away the voiceless plosives from the phoneme repertoire, the second phase filled this gap, but created a new gap in the phoneme repertoire. This process continued until the chain shift was finished.


The voiceless plosives did not become fricatives if they were preceded by * s (fricative):

Change non-Germanic, unshifted ex. Germanic ex.
* sp lat. spuere , lit. spjáuti German spit , nl. spuien , engl. spew , got. speiwan, dan. norw. swedish spy , iceland. spýja
* st lat. stāre , lit. stóti 'stand up, step', Russian stoját ' ( стоять ), aind. sthā - German stand , nd stahn , nl. staan , west frieze . stean , dan. norw. swed. stå
* sk 1) lit. skurdùs  ; 2) lat. Miscēre , ir. Measc 1) ahd.scurz , engl. short , arrangement skort  ; 2) ahd.missing (dt. Mixing ), aengl. miscian
* skʷ ir. scéal , wal. chwedl 'Sage' iceland. skáld 'poet'

The voiceless plosive * t also did not become a fricative if it was preceded by * p, * k, or * kʷ (voiceless plosives):

no change from * t 1) Latin octō , ir. Ocht  ; 2) lit. neptė̃ ‚niece ', Latin neptis , aind. naptī́ 1) German nl. eight , engl. eight , got. ahtau  ; 2) early. Nift 'niece', aengl. nift , nl. not , order. nipt

At the time when the voiceless plosives were frikatisiert in Ur-Germanic, this fricatization only affected voiceless plosives if they were connected with the voiceless plosive * t . This fact is also described with the terms primary contact effect , dental contact or "Germanic spirant rule before t":

Change non-Germanic, unshifted ex. Germanic, postponed ex.
* pt → ft agronomy kléptein ( κλέπτειν ) 'steal', apreuss. au-klipts 'hidden' got. hliftus 'thief'
* kt → ht lat. octō , ir. ocht , heth. hooks German nl. eight , engl. eight , got. ahtáu , iceland . átta
* kʷt → h (w) t agronomy nýx , Gen. nyktós (νύξ, νυκτός), Latin nox (Gen. noctis ), lit. naktìs , aind. naktam German night , nl. night , engl. night , got. nahts , iceland . nótt

The most "stubborn" group of obvious exceptions to the first sound shift, which posed a challenge to historical linguistics for several decades, was finally declared in 1875 by the Danish linguist Karl Verner (see Verner's law ).

Relations with the other tribes of Indo-Germania

If one looks at the first or Germanic sound shift in connection with the changes, as they are documented in the other Indo-European languages, a correspondence can be determined within the different branches of the language family. For example, the Germanic word beginning * b- usually corresponds to the Slavic, Baltic or Celtic b- , the Latin * f- , the Greek pʰ- and the bʰ- des Sanskrit, whereas the Germanic * f- the Latin, Greek , Old Indian, Slavic and Baltic p- corresponds. The first group goes back to the Indo-European * bʰ- , which has been preserved in Sanskrit in an identical form, in the other family tribes in a modified form. The second group mentioned goes back to the Urindo-European * p- , which was only moved in Germanic, while it was lost in Celtic and was retained in the other groups mentioned.

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: first sound shift  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Johann Arnold Kanne : About the relationship between the Greek and German languages. Wilhelm Rein, Leipzig 1804. See F. Bross: Basic course in German linguistics for the Bavarian state examination. Gunter Narr, Tübingen 2014, p. 102.
  2. Martin Schwartz: "Avestan Terms for the Sauma Plant", in: Haoma and Harmaline . University of California Press, Berkeley 1989, 123.
  3. Michael Witzel : "Substrate Languages ​​in Old Indo-Aryan (R̥gvedic, Middle and Late Vedic)", in: Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies (EJVS) (5-1) 1999, page 30.
  4. The evidential value of these examples is questionable. Two possible alternative explanations come into question: On the one hand, it is very possible that Germanic names came to the Romans through Celtic mediation. On the other hand, it can be a question of transcription and the change in the rendering of Germanic names over time can just as well be other changes in Germanic pronunciation (such as [χ]> [h], where [χ] perhaps as <c > was reproduced) reflect changes in Latin pronunciation or written culture. Sounds like [θ] and [χ] were alien to the Romans and were probably not known to them from the Greek at first, since the Greek phonemes, which were written with Phi, Theta and Chi, were initially p , t and c in Latin , in the classical period were then reproduced as ph , th and ch and in the pre-Christian times apparently were still plosives. The fricative pronunciation is only documented at the turn of the ages (at least not before the first century BC, see Phonology of Koine ). It is precisely at this time that spellings with th (for [θ]) and ch or h (for [χ] or [h]) also appear in Germanic names.
  5. Euler 2009, p. 63.
  6. ^ Lyle Campbell : Historical Linguistics , 2nd Edition, Cambridge, 2004, ISBN 0-262-53267-0 .
  7. KT Schmidt, Klaus Strunk : “Toch. B kwipe 'Scham, Schande', A kip 'Scham', and germ. * Wīƀa 'Weib' “, in: Indogermanica Europaea: Festschrift for Wolfgang Meid on the occasion of his 60th birthday on November 12, 1989 . 1989, pp. 251-284.
  8. ^ Calvert Watkins: The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots . 2nd Edition. Keyword: "gʷʰībʰ-". Houghton Mifflin, Boston 2000, p. 32. ( Memento of April 12, 2009 in the Internet Archive )