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I am no study of linguistics, it is an hobby, so certainly nothing I know about in depth, but this one I do find puzzling. I understand that sometimes sounds change, this happens in English today due to pronunciation and written form diverging. But what it is this that I find interesting is how often particular words across Germanic languages seem to develop in the same direction.


A good example is the possessive determiner.

*In English, they are my/mine and in both, the believed /i/ vowel has shifted first to /ɨ/, most likely, then finally to /aɪ/ today, but in some accents it has become a form of /a/, like in the American Southern accents.

*In Scots, English /aɪ/ corresponds to /a/ like in the American southern accents.

*In modern High-German, the possessive pronoun mein- also has evolved in this same pronunciation, even unto a vowel similar to either an /a/ or /ɛɪ/.

*I am unfamiliar with Low German dialects and accents, but it seems to be that for some the possessive pronouns can have any of /ɪ/, /i/, or something like /ɪˑə/.

*In Dutch, if I am not mistaken, mijn is pronounced as /m.n/ and mijne is pronounced as /mɛɪnə/. Not the same, but very similar.

*I have never personally heard West Frisian, but I am awares their possessive pronouns are spelled with a in their writing system, which should mean it is either pronounced as /i/ or /ɛɪ/.


I am probably not one to be forming opinions on this topic, but I would think that the common language from which West Germanic languages developed either used one of these vowels or diphthongs: /ɨ~ɪ̈~əɪ̈/ at least somewhere in that area.

If anything, this is food for thought.

  • /i:/ became /aj/ in English as part of the Great Vowel Shift, separate from the other Germanic languages. The development into /a/ in Southern American happened much later. – Draconis Oct 16 '17 at 19:36
  • Have you read any overviews of the so-called English "Great Vowel Shift" (as Draconis mentioned)? The specifics of it (like timing, to what extent the various sound changes really form a coherent group, whether it was "push" or "pull") are disputed, but people are aware of the parallels in other West Germanic languages, and a decent description of the sound changes should mention various evidence against assuming they are inherited common West Germanic changes. – brass tacks Oct 16 '17 at 21:02
  • Here is a link from Anthony Kroch's website: ling.upenn.edu/~kroch/courses/lx310/handouts/handouts-09/ringe/… – brass tacks Oct 16 '17 at 21:04
  • /aɪ/ shall look over it as I have the time, I thank you all thus far. – Matthew T. Scarbrough Oct 16 '17 at 23:03
  • Another link, that mentions some prior literature on the English GVS: hilaryp.github.io/files/Prichard_2014.pdf – brass tacks Oct 17 '17 at 21:15

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