AD's English Literature : Grimm – Verner’s Law --Law of first Consonant Sift.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Grimm – Verner’s Law --Law of first Consonant Sift.

The Germanic speech group in which the place of English is in the sub-family, itself constitutes a branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Many modifications were taking place in the Primitive Germanic, and just as it had originated as dialect of Indo – European, so it was itself breaking up into several dialects, mainly on geographical basis. There are many inter-relations among branches and sub branches of the sub-family languages which are criss-crossing, yet fascinating for the philologists. Such an important change observed by Jacob Grim, a German philologist is the Primitive Germanic consonant shift. Presently, we will explain it and note the corrigendum by Danish philologist, Verner.

The corresponding study of Indo- European language (Latin, Sanskrit, Greek etc) and primitive Germanic group was closely supervised by Jacob Grimm. In a number of Latin words are placed along side their equivalents in the Germanic languages, so that they can easily be compared, it almost invariably happens a few changes in sound system. The Indo-European consonant system remained intact, but the Primitive Germanic group had changed it, and the change had apparently proceeded so regularly that it must have some definite, methodical course. These changes are noted as Grimm’s Law.

In a comparative study among these languages it is found that whereas unvoiced non-aspirate sound remain intact in other correlative languages, it became unvoiced aspirate in old Germanic. It is more likely the change:voiced aspirate -->voiced non-aspirate  -->unvoiced non-aspirate.Now take it a simple analysis:

The sounds ‘bh’ ‘dh’ and ‘gh’ occurring in Indo-Germanic (primitive) became ‘b’ ‘d’ and ‘g’ in Germanic.
For example, Sanskrit ‘dha’ became English ‘do’ (dh àd), the Sanskrit ‘bhu’ became the English ‘be’ (bh àb) or Latin ‘ghostis’ became ‘gnest’ (gh àg).

The sounds ‘b’ ‘d’ and ‘g’ in Indo Germanic become ‘p’, ‘t’, ‘k’ in Germanic.
For example, Lat, ‘slubricus’ became English ‘ship’ (b àp), Latin ‘genu’ became ‘knee’ (gàk) or Lat. ‘dens’ became ‘teeth’ in English (dàt)

The Indo-Germanic sounds ‘p’ ‘t’ and ‘k’ became ‘ph’ ‘th’ and ‘kh’ in Germanic respectively.
For example, the Sanskrit ‘pad’ became the English ‘foot’ (pàph), or Latin ‘Pater’ became English ‘father’. The Sanskrit ‘Bhatri’ became the English ‘brother’ (tàth), Latin ‘Cordis’ became Eng. ‘Heat’ (kà(k)h).
Actually Grimm’s Law was not quite accurate; or rather it was accurate as far as it went but it did not account for all the changes in question. These laws, for example, do not operate when the consonants are in such combination as ‘sp’ ‘st’ and ‘ht’. There are further irregularities which were later made up by the Danish philologist Karl Verner. The law named after him clarified the deficiency that except when occurring initially or accept when immediately following a stressed syllable, the Indo-Germanic ‘k’ ‘t’ ‘p’ instead of becoming ‘kh’, ‘th’ and ‘ph’ changed reversal and became ‘g’ ‘d’ and ‘b’. thus in accordance to Verner’s law Sanskrit ‘anter’ gives the English word ‘under’ (tàd).

            Now this is not the whole story of consonant shift. After a close study of Primitive Germanic group – Gothic, Scandinavian and West Germanic (where from English derived) Verner gave the law of Rhotacism. It states that ghe Indo Germanic sound ‘s’ becomes modified as ‘z’ in Gothic and later it changes into West German (English) ‘r’. When it occurred medially in a word it was now modified to an ‘r’ while at the end of a word the tendency was for it to disappear altogether. For example, we have English ‘hare’ whose corresponding Sanskrit word is ‘casos’ which also had an intermediate from of ‘haza’ in Gothic. This also explains why, in modern English, the plural of ‘was’ is ‘were’ and that of ‘is’, ‘are’. However, it is to be noted that rhotacism only occurs when‘s’ sound is preceded by an unaccented syllable. Even if it is followed by any unaccented syllable it does not operate.

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