Grimm's Law and Verner's Law Notestags: anglo-saxon studies, germanic languages, grimm's law, history of english, linguistics, medieval studies, students, study tips, tutorials, verner's law
Grimm’s law concerns an unconditioned sound change that affects all
Indo-European stops. In this change (examples mostly from Brinton and Arnovick),
Voiceless stops became voiceless fricatives
|Voiceless stops||Voiceless fricatives|
|*p||*f||PIE *peisk- vs. OE fisc ‘fish’|
|*t||*θ||PIE *tenu ‘to stretch’ vs. PDE thin|
|*k||*x or *h (word-initial)||PIE *krewə ‘raw meat/blood’ vs. OE hrēaw ‘raw’|
|*kw||*xw or *hw (word-initial)||PIE *kwod ‘what’ vs. OE hwæt ‘what’|
Voiced stops became voiceless stops
|Voiced stops||Voiceless stops|
|*b||*p||PIE *kan(n)abi- ‘cannabis’ vs. PDE hemp|
|*d||*t||PIE *dekm vs. PDE ten|
|*g||*k||PIE *grənom vs. PDE corn|
|*gw||*kw||PIE *gwei- vs. OE cwicu ‘alive’|
Voiced aspirated stops became voiced fricatives and then voiced stops.
|Voiced aspirated stops||Voiced fricatives||Voiceless Fricatives|
|*bh||*β||*b||PIE *bhrāter vs. OE broþer|
|*dh||*ð||*d||PIE * əndhero- vs. OE under|
|*gh||*ɣ||*g or *h (word-initial)||PIE *wegh vs. OE weg ‘road, way’|
|*gwh||*ɣw||*g or *w||PIE *gwher ‘to heat’ vs. OE warm|
The first group mentioned above (voiceless stops) underwent an additional change in certain contexts due to the change from variable accent in Indo-European to fixed initial accent in Germanic. When these sounds appeared in a voiced environment (i.e. not initially or finally or next to other voiceless consonants) and were not immediately proceeded by the Indo-European stress, they went on to become a voiced stop. Under the same conditions, Indo-European */s/ became Germanic */r/.
|Voiceless stops||Voiced fricatives||Voiced stops|
|*p||*β||*b||PIE *septm vs. Gothic síbun ‘seven’|
|*t||*ð||*d||PIE *pətēr vs. OE fæder ‘father’ (medial sound: d rather than t)|
|*k||*ɣ||*g||PIE *dukā vs. OE togian ‘tow’|
|*s||*z||*r||PIE *ghaiso ‘stick’ vs. OE gār ‘spear’|
A useful way of remembering these sound changes (taught to me by Philip Rusche of UNLV) is to diagram each row of the above tables as a triangle:
To find the result of Grimm’s law, go one step clockwise around the triangle. Thus using the first triangle, we can see that PIE *bh became Gmc *b, PIE *b became Gmc *p, and PIE *p became Gmc *f. Verner’s law only affects the consonants at the top of the triangle. To see what they became after the effect of Verner’s law, go two steps clockwise around the triangle: so PIE *p became Gmc *b when it was subject to Verner’s law.
Posted: Monday March 5, 2007. 14:37.
Last modified: Wednesday May 23, 2012. 19:16.