What is the name of a sound shift law under which the German vowel "a" changes to the English "i", e.g.

Macht -> might;
Nacht -> night

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    You seem to have copied the examples from your other post (why from a different account?), but in this question you probably want to highlight the vowels and not the consonants. – Keelan Mar 16 '19 at 17:55
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    Sound shifts change earlier forms into later ones, but German and English are present-day languages. – Greg Lee Mar 16 '19 at 18:24

Sound changes happen from an ancestor language to a descendant language, not from one modern language to another. However, in this case, German seems to have preserved the vowels from Proto-Germanic pretty faithfully, while English hasn't. So it's still valid to talk about a shift from PGmc *a to OE /i/.

The key here is called Anglo-Frisian brightening: *a shifted forward to something like [æ] in most environments. In Old English, front vowels then got raised before /xt/. This is why vowels before English ght are generally higher than before German cht: see also recht~right, etc.

Post-OE, the /x/ disappeared and lengthened the vowel in compensation, giving something like /ni:t/. The Great Vowel Shift then turned this into modern /najt/.

  • Could it be the other way around, that the vowel lengthened and the /x/ lost only as a consequence? In that case the question, why the vowel lengthened, would remain. I think it's plausible that way around, given that the German complementary contrast for /x/ depends on vowel color, and consequently length, for which /i:/ is the extreme case (written ie, English ee as if notably special), and g for example goes to /ç/ in Low German after /i:/, too ("wieviel wiecht das?" or even "weycht"), which somewhat explains the gh in English, maybe. – vectory Mar 19 '19 at 22:14
  • The prime example would of course have to be "Aenglish">English", German "Angel(sachsen)". – vectory Mar 19 '19 at 22:15

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