Consonant and vowel gradation in the Proto-Germanic n-stems: an investigation of Germanic morphophonology
This dissertation focuses on the systematic vowel alternations displayed by the Proto-Germanic n-stems. The fact is, that many of these nouns now appear to have preserved the ablaut system of the Indo-European proto-language spoken some five millennia ago. In this respect, the n-stems are truly comparable to the Germanic strong verbs, which are notorious for their vocalic alternations throughout the paradigm.
- Guus Kroonen
- 07 April 2009
- Full text in Leiden University Repository
The dissertation further demonstrates that the preservation of the Indo-European nominal ablaut is closely intertwined with a specifically Germanic development, i.e. paradigmatic consonant alternations. Due to a sound law called Kluge’s law, the root-final consonantism of the n-stems was geminated in some cases, but unaffected in others. As a result, the paradigm received a Sámi-like type of consonant gradation.
The interchange of singulates and geminates came on top of the already existing vowel alternations, which led to a bewildering set of root variants. This rich formal variation has been widely misinterpreted as resulting from “expressivity” or contact with an unknown language. In my dissertation, I argue that it must have emerged out of a unique interplay between archaic Indo-European morphology and a specifically Germanic innovation.