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Re: OT: English and front rounded vowels

From:T. A. McLeay <conlang@...>
Date:Thursday, December 6, 2007, 1:07
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 -- Tristan.


Benct Philip Jonsson <bpj@...>
Eric Christopherson <rakko@...>