Grimm’s Law – Part 2 (Verner’s Law)

This is the second part to my first linguistically-oriented post, finishing the consonant shift from PIE to Proto-Germanic.

When Grimm’s Law was uncovered, it was noted that it was irregular and non-perfect, an example of this is PIE phtḗr, father, became fadēr in Proto-Germanic, rather than the expected faþēr, whereas a similar word bʰréhtēr followed Grimm’s Law and became brōþēr. Note: þ is the letter ‘thorn’, producing the th sound. It was noticed that these irregularities followed a regular pattern and that stress placement in the word changed how the consonants were shifting.

Verner wrote about this and called it The Exception to the First Consonantal Shift, these exceptions were:Verners Law

These contradicted the expected sounds of f, θ/þ, andrespectively.

The PIE words follow Grimm’s Law if the preceding syllable was unstressed. If stress was present, the voiceless fricatives (what Grimm predicted) became voiced. Verner’s discovery also helped explain words where their s shifted as well.

  • PIE s → s

If there preceding syllable was stressed, the s sound remained, else when it was unstressed, it followed this pattern:

  • s → z → r (Called Rhotocism, named after the Greek letter ρ)

This is key in understanding more subtle links between languages such as Latin and Old Norse and their endings; Ventus (wind) versus Vindr, following Verner’s Law, the t→d and s→r shifts clearly show ventus became vindr.

Because of Verner, historical linguists are now able to tie words together that were once thought unrelated, such as in Latin cutis, skin, and in English hide, the initial letter in words cannot have preceding stress so follows Grimm’s Law and there is stress before the t so follow’s Verner’s Law, so there is c(k)→h  and t→d forming hudis, or hide.

And that concludes the second part of the consonantal shift from PIE to Proto-Germanic. Thanks!

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