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Re: NATLANGS: Difthongization across Europa

From:Benct Philip Jonsson <bpj@...>
Date:Monday, February 18, 2008, 13:19
John Vertical skrev:
 > A thing I've been wondering. I've noticed that some quite
 > similar vowel shifts occur in several European languages
 > around the beginning of the Middle Ages... Most
 > prominently, this bunch: Romance - E: O: > je wo West
 > Slavic - o: > u / wo SW Germanic - e: 2: o: > i@ y@ u@ <ie
 > üe uo> Baltic - e: o: > ie uo Finnish - e: 2: o: > ie y2
 > uo Northern Sami - E: O: > ie uo which does not look co-
 > incidental at all...

Diphthongization happens all the time in sundry languages at
sundry times simply because it is hard ti maintain the
articulation of a long vowel, so high vowels tend to become
closing diphthongs (Old French e: > ei > oi > oe > oE > wa,
o: > ou > u:) and low vowels tend to become centering
diphthongs (OF E: > iE, O: > uo > ue > u2). Middle Indo-
Aryan had @i @u merging with e: o:, and Hindi/Urdu
dialects again had newly arisen @i @u > E: O: (remaining
distinct this time). Clearly there may be areal influence
at work, as has been suggested e.g. for Old French and
Old High German E: O: > iE uO at about the same time (5th-
10th century -- in OHG the progeression in spellings e >
ea > ia > ie can actually be observed in manuscripts
through the 6th to 10th century!). There was certainly
areal influence at work when German had i: y: u: > @i @y
@u > ai 9i au, Dutch had i: u: > @i @u, o: O: > u: o:,
English had i: u: > @i @u and Frisian had centralizing
diphthongization of practically all its long vowels at
the same time! In North America a change & > &: > &@ > E@
 > e@ > i@ / _[cons vcd] has happened since the middle of
the last century as part of sweeping chain shifts:

- <>
- <>
 > But I also recently noticed Faroese has &: A: > ea oa.

Actually &: > ea and Q: > oa, with later secondary a:
merging with &:. Old Norse had no long a:/A:, since
Common Scandinavian A: had merged with Q:. Only one very
old text -- the so-called First Grammatical Treatise
distinguishes the two.

 > I understand this also happens in various other
 > Scandinavian 'lects, as well as dialectally in Finnish.

There is a lot of diphthongization in Scandinavian dialects,
and more in the more peripheral areas (furthest west, north
and east -- as in east of the Bothnic and Baltic --, but
also in Jutland); e: o: diphthongize both ways: ei ou/ie uo
in different areas. Icelandic strangely has e: > je but &: >
ai, o: ou, and the Icelandic and Faroese developments of Q:
are opposite: au and oa! Many south Scandinavian dialects
also had G > j/w depending on the front-/backness of the
preceding vowel similar to what Old English had half a
millennium earlier. Danish dialects even have D > j, which
in effect is a kind of dipthongization too.

 > I wonder if the pre-GVS change of &: A: > E: O: in
 > English went thru this stage too, seeing that they're
 > spelled <ea oa>?

No. Old English had a real /&:@/ diphthong which was spelled
_ea_, but merged with /&:/ in late OE or early ME, so that
_ea_ became a spelling for /&:/; _oa_ probably being a late
analogical creation, although some ME dialects had
centralizing diphthongization of E: O:, as witnessed e.g. by
the modern pronunciation of _one_ /w@n/ < OE /A:n/ which was
borrowed from such a dialect. ME spelling usually didn't
distinguish E:/e: and O:/o:, writing _ee_ and _oo_ for both
members of each pair. Ironically the _ea_ and _oa_ spellings
didn't come in vogue intil shortly before the GVS!

 > So anyone kno of any crosslinguistic reserch on the
 > chronology & propagation of these sound changes? Where
 > did they start and when? Were languages such as Estonian
 > or Swedish simply standardized from a non-difthongizing
 > 'lect or did the sound change "jump over" them in some
 > fashion? etc.

No they standardized from non-diphthongizing lects, or
rather they standardized *before* diphthongization. Cf.
Danish which still spells /ai/, and /au/ as _eg/æg_ and
_ag_ when the derive from Common Scand. ek/ak! COSc. G > j/w
a millennium ago, but then a new G arose from k / V_V, which
again went to j/w in more recent centuries. Some claim Karen
Blixen was the last to cling to the [G] pronunciation! :-)

 > John Vertical (PS. Sorry to mess with your email filters.
 > I couldn't decide whether to put this under NATLANG or


/BP 8^)>
Benct Philip Jonsson -- melroch atte melroch dotte se
   "C'est en vain que nos Josués littéraires crient
   à la langue de s'arrêter; les langues ni le soleil
   ne s'arrêtent plus. Le jour où elles se *fixent*,
   c'est qu'elles meurent."           (Victor Hugo)