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Across West Germanic Languages, what sound changes have been most common since 1000 CE? For example, has there been much epenthesis (vowel insertion) or syncope (dropping middle vowels) or metathesis (transposing sounds, as in flutterby becoming butterfly)? Other historical processes?

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    Interesting question. In my experience, normally it will help if you explain the context or why you're interested in this information. – Louis Rhys Apr 15 '12 at 6:03
  • The West Germanic languages are enormously widely spoken, with about half a billion speakers and oer 50 languages including Frisian, High German, Low German, Yiddish, Luxembourgish, Dutch, Afrikaans, Scots and of course all the many varieties of English. I'd be surprised if there were many consistent changes across this entire group, but of course I'd be eager to learn if there have been. – Mark Beadles Apr 15 '12 at 15:18
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    @ Louis Rhys: I'm afraid the context is off-topic. I want Germanic-looking vocabulary for a conlang I'm writing. Subjecting real Low German vocabulary to common sound changes should do the trick. – James Grossmann Apr 15 '12 at 17:01
  • How about lenition? The 'weakening' of sounds. I'm not sure how common it is, but worth looking into. – Danger Fourpence Apr 15 '12 at 21:12
  • Actually, the context is helpful IMO. If you're limiting it to Low German instead of West Germanic as a whole, the question is probably much more answerable. But remember - if you subject Middle Low German to actual sound changes, you'll end up with Modern Low German :) – Mark Beadles Apr 16 '12 at 2:05
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This chart at Wikipedia gives an overview of the consonant changes of Low German compared to other West Germanic languages and may be helpful to you.

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For sound changes that happened after ca. 1000 there are some candidates:

  • th-stopping: Essentially all continental Germanic languages stopped their th's to d's, including Frisian
  • unrounding of umlauts vowels: /y/ -> /i/ and /ø/ -> /e/ happened in English, Yiddish, and is frequently encountered in German dialects
  • apocope of final e/schwa: Still an active process in German dialects
  • diphthongisation of long vowels: /hu:s/ -> /haus/ and /mi:n/ -> /main/ happened independently in High German and English
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  • I agree with your points. Concerning the þ-stopping, I would add that, to my knowledge, it sometimes resulted in /t/ in Frisian like in Scandinavian. But are you sure that the continental West Germanic languages kept the dental fricative(s) up until ca. 1000? – tobiornottobi Dec 12 '18 at 19:20
  • A partial answer to the timing of th stopping can be found here: linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/20184/… – jk - Reinstate Monica Dec 13 '18 at 7:49
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Well, since 1000 CE... That makes it a lot more difficult. I'm not sure if any of these changes may have happened earlier.

Reduction of unstressed vowels to schwa. Happened in English, Dutch, Low Saxon, German and more languages.

Loss of gemination.

Regarding the diphthongisation of long vowels that jknappen mentioned: That happened in Dutch too (didn't happen in Low Saxon, Limburgish/Ripuarian Frisian(except open syllables), most Alemannic German). mîn- en /maɪ̯n/ de /maɪ̯n/ nl /mɛi̯n/, lûs- en /laʊ̯s/ de /laʊ̯s/ nl /lœy̯s/.

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  • Arguably schwa always and irregularly surfaces in speech, but only phoneticly, not phonemically (Ger machen~machn; En diligent - I don't even know how it's spelled which is not always indicative anyhow; En my~muh; Ger der die das vs En the vs Fr l'; so called subvocal, I believe, on the one hand, and foreign speakers simplifying an arbitrary gender system in case of the articles on the other hand). Do you have a proper example? – vectory Dec 13 '18 at 12:53
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    Schwa [ə] is considered a phoneme /ə/ in German, English, Dutch and French. – tobiornottobi Dec 13 '18 at 16:37
  • I think the sound change is undisputed. But true, the old schwa was often apocopated, as jknappen mentioned. > "Do you have a proper example?" An example for what? I didn't understand that. – tobiornottobi Dec 13 '18 at 16:42
  • A before-after example, but you have already given one: /ˈd͡ʒɝmən/ ;) it's not a complete example without an Old English form and it's origin is unclear still. For comparison: /fɹɛnt͡ʃ/ – vectory Dec 13 '18 at 18:34
  • There is no Old English form, since this is a loan word. – tobiornottobi Dec 13 '18 at 18:44

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