Few examples: Lay-legen Day-tag (I know that the d here shifted to a t due to a sound change described in Grimm's Law) Slay-(Er)schlagen

I am aware of the fact that German and English share a common ancestor called West-Germanic, but is this particular sound correspondence due to a sound change that occured in Anglo-Frisian dialects? Because in Frisian, words seem to have undergone the same shift(day "dei"), whereas in other Germanic tongues, such as in dutch, it looks like it has kept the kept the final g sound like in German.

  • 1
    The "final g sound like in German" is quite variable. In standard German, final ig is normally pronounced like ich; Burg rhymes with durch. In Dutch, all G's are fricated in most dialects. And once a syllable has gone from ig to ich, it's a very short step to palatalizing the fricative and reducing it to a resonant yod.
    – jlawler
    Nov 5, 2019 at 21:05
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    @jlawler Not quite … Standard pronunciation of Burg rhymes with Turk just like Tag rhymes with the first syllable of Pakistan and even the standard pronunciation of weg (away) rhymes with Teck. The standard pronunciation of -ig is given as /iç/ as if it were -ich, but not all dialects/accents participate (in Bavarian, it is /ik/). However, many accents fricativise g in many places to a corresponding ch irrespective of what standard pronunciation suggests.
    – Jan
    Nov 6, 2019 at 6:30
  • As I said, quite variable. In any event, this is not a surprising result.
    – jlawler
    Nov 6, 2019 at 15:37
  • Since German devoices final -g, no German word ends in a g sound.
    – Greg Lee
    Nov 6, 2019 at 16:25

1 Answer 1


This is due to Old English Palatalization, the same reason modern English has "hard" and "soft" versions of the letters g and c.

Wikipedia has more details, but to summarize: in certain environments, the velar consonants /k/ and /g/ changed their pronunciation. /g/ (the first sound in "get") usually ended up turning into /j/ (the first sound in "yes") or /d͡ʒ/ (the first sound in "gem"), depending on what came before it.

In this particular case, the Old English word was /dæg/, with a /g/ after a front vowel /æ/. And in this environment, /g/ became /j/, eventually spelled with the letter y, giving day. In the ancestor of modern German, these changes didn't happen, so the /g/ stuck around, giving Tag.

(By the way, the different initial consonants in day~Tag aren't due to Grimm's Law—Grimm's Law happened back before the ancestor of German and the ancestor of English split apart. Instead, this is due to the second Germanic consonant shift, also known as the High German consonant shift, which affected the ancestor of modern German but not the ancestor of modern English.)

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