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Re: OT: English and front rounded vowels

From:Benct Philip Jonsson <bpj@...>
Date:Friday, December 7, 2007, 5:58
As Tristan says the main source of front rounded vowels in
Germanic was that back vowels become fronted when an /i/ or
/j/ followed in the next syllable, so that

     - u > y
     - o > 2
     - A > & > E

When later the conditioning /i/ or /j/ was lost or merged
with other vowels the front rounded and low mid front
unrounded vowels became phonemic. The loss of the
conditioning sound proceeded differently in different
Germanic dialects: in West Germanic (English, Frisian,
Dutch, German) Cj > CC and i > @. In North Germanic
unstressed /i/ and /e/ merged into a single sound variously
spelled _i_ or _e_, but since i-umlaut didn't happen before
former /e/ phonemicization occurred since unmutated vowels
could now occur before _i_. In Dutch the conditions are more
complicated than elsewhere, but eventually front rounded
phonemes arose there too. East Germanic probably died out
too early to be affected. At any rate there is no trace of
mutation in Bible Gothic, nor in Gothic and Vandalic names
recorded in Greek and Latin sources.

It is also true that front rounded vowels occurred through
other processes in North Germanic. Most notably through u-
mutation which worked similarly to i-mutation, a non-
rounded vowel becoming rounded if an /u/ or /w/ followed in
the next syllable:

     - i > y
     - e > 2
     - A > Q

cf. Swedish _trygg_ 'secure' and English _true_ < OE _treow_
     < Gmc. *triwwaz.

In East Scandinavian (Swedish and Danish) w-mutation was
more consistent and pervasive than u-mutation. West
Scandinavian acquired a new phoneme /Q/ which in Icelandic
later fronted to /9/.

East Scandinavian also monophthongized /au/ [Qu] and /2y/
to /2:/ (and /ai/ [&i] to /e:/ *baina > OE bán > Eng.
bone, Sw. ben.

Finally there was something called breaking in North

     - eCa# > jaC > jEC
     - eCu# > jQC > j2C

eg. *stelan > OE stelan > Eng.steal, Sw. stjäla;
*skelduz > OE scield > Eng. shield, Sw. sköld [x2ld]
or [S2ld] depending on dialect (there you got your
co-worker's name!) Middle English had /Se:ld/].
The lengthening was conditioned by the following /ld/.

Front rounded vowels have been unrounded in English,
Icelandic, Faroese and many German dialects. In Icelandic
the Old Norse front rounded vowels have unrounded, but ON
/Q/ and short /u/ have fronted to new front rounded
vowels /9(:)/ and /Y(:)/.

Swedish and Norwegian has had a chain shift whereby
A > o > u > u\. Old Scandinavian /A:/ shows up as /o(:)/ or
/O/, /o:/ > /u(:)/ and /u(:)/ > /u\(:)/. In many
dialects OSc. short /o/ > /3\(:)/, another non-back
rounded vowel. In modern Swedish short /u\/ is [8] while
long /u\/ and /y/ are practically [Yw] and [Yj]! Thus
the cognate of Eng. shoot is Sw. skjuta ['xYwta]. Not
unexpectedly we tend to identify English STRUT and NURSE
with our /8/ and /2:/, so if you want to flatter your
co-worker you should pronounce his/her name [S@ld]!


e. A. McLeay skrev:
> Mark J. Reed wrote: >> How did English come to be without front rounded vowels, >> when the majority of Germanic languages have them? Did >> English lose them at some point, or was it a parallel >> development in the others? >> >> I'm being a bit lazy by asking on here, but it's the sort >> of question that takes a few searches and scans to find >> the answer to. > > In Germanic languages, front rounded vowels were generally > created by umlaut (i-mutation): /o/ + /i, j/ -> /2/ + null > or /@/; /u/ + /i, j/ -> /y/ + null or /@/. (There were > other results of i-mutation with different vowels to; i- > mutation was in fact most thorough in continental pre-Anglo- > Saxon and closely related dialects, and probably started > in them.) > > In English, the high front rounded vowels were unrounded > towards the end of the Old English period. Mid front > rounded vowels were either lost much earlier, or generally > not written. Decent (;) dialects of English have since re- > created them from things like [u:] and [@:]. Before /r/ > strange things seem to have happened though, so you have > words like "bury" <- OE byrgan. > > Note that Old English palatalisation (e.g. L ca:seus > OE > ce:se > MnE cheese; OE gerd -> ME yerd -> MnE yard) > didn't occur before front-rounded vowels, so English > words with k-/g- before e/i generally come from words > with i-mutation ("keep" <- OE ce:p-), or borrowings from > other languages, or blendings of English and Norse words. > Words that seem to defy > >> It came up because I have a Swedish coworker named Skold, >> and I just found out that it's really Sköld /j\2ld/ (not >> sure about the CXS for the sje-sound) - the Swedish word >> for "shield". Phonetically, the connection between sköld >> and shield is much closer than the written forms suggest; >> the midpoint between the pronunciations is probably >> [Seld] which differs from the Swedish in little more than >> lip-rounding. > > And of course pre-GVS it would've been [Se:ld] in > English. North Germanic languages got front rounded > vowels from other processes besides, which a North > Germanicist on the list might be able to help with better > (I know Sw. /2:/ sometimes comes from PG *au, which in > English usually becomes /e~i:/ via ME /E:/ and OE /&A/, > spelt "ea" in all cases.) > > HTH