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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 orthography. 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 <> 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! /BP 8^)> -- Benct Philip Jonsson -- melroch at melroch dot se a shprakh iz a dialekt mit an armey un flot (Max Weinreich)


Andreas Johansson <andjo@...>
Henrik Theiling <theiling@...>
Tristan Alexander McLeay <conlang@...>