NATLANG: Re: German sibilants and consonant clusters.
|From:||Benct Philip Jonsson <bpjonsson@...>|
|Date:||Tuesday, June 20, 2006, 11:49|
Steven Williams skrev:
> Several years ago, as I was beginning my study of
> German, I noticed that no native word (at least in
> Hochdeutsch) had a cluster of any kind that had [s] +
> consonant; it was always [S].
> I'm curious as to why this is so. I was told by my
> linguistics professor that Old High German had two
> variants of /s/ — an apical and a laminal, most
> likely, he said.
> This makes sense, if the laminal became reinterpreted
> as a postalveolar [S] after /sk/ palatalized to [S].
> Is this so, and if it is indeed so, how did this
> original opposition between apical and laminal
> sibilants evolve from the original PIE consonant inventory?
It is so. The laminal /s_m/ descends from PIE /s/, while
the apical /s_a/ arose from intervocalic *t through the High
German consonant shift. That's why German has _Wasser_
against English _water_ (and correspondingly _Affe_/_ape_).
Note however that not every MHG /s_m/ became /S/, but only
in clusters, the others becoming /z/, and some even merging
with /s_a/ -- that's why German has no initial /s/ but only
/z/ or /S/ and medial and final sC clusters.
But apparently *sk went through the sequence /sk/ > /s_m x/
> /Sx/ > /S/, as implied by the spelling, while other
initial sC clusters didn't lose the second member. Note
that Dutch, which didn't go through the HG consonant shift
nevertheless has initial *sk > /Sx/.
Nevertheless MHG /s_m/ must have been rather much like [S]
-- that's why Hungarian uses _s_ for /S/ but _sz_ for /s/.
The spelling _sz_ descends from one of several possible
spellings for MHG /s_m/, which later became _ß_ in German
NB that OHG and MHG orthography wasn't consistent WRT the
spellings of its sibilants and the affricate /ts/: _z_
served for both short /ts/ and short /s_a/, while the
long/geminate counterparts were _tz_ or _cz_ and _zz_ or
_sz_ respectively. Modern scholars use a modified _z_
resembling the IPA [Z] character, U+0225 LATIN SMALL LETTER
Z WITH HOOK, for /s_a/ but in MHG this was only a graphic
variant of _z_ without special significance in Medieval
writing, but see <http://wiki.frath.net/Cedilla> for a
similar graphic variant used distinctively. To confuse
matters more a graphically similar or identical form is used
for /G/ in some Old English grammars and editions!
Benct Philip Jonsson -- melroch at melroch dot se
a shprakh iz a dialekt mit an armey un flot