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If I am not mistaken, the 'eo' diphthong was very common in Old English, and occurred in a lot of words, however this diphthong disappeared by the Modern English period, why was that? Notice that in words like 'freond' and 'beorc', it simply changed into a different vowel, like 'friend' and 'birch', and in the few in which it survived, its pronunciation changed, as in 'people'. Might anyone be able to give an explanation for this?

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    questions of why are not generally answerable. Sounds just change and, especially with vowels and diphthongs, this is largely unpredictable. People however is not a word inherited from Old English, but a later borrowing, so its spelling is unrelated to the fate of the OE eo diphthong – Tristan Apr 28 at 9:12
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    Birch is not the same word as beorc. Beorc is from PG *berkō-, the base word, whereas birch (OE bi(e)rc̊) is from the derived form *birkijō- (= *berko-jō-). The OE word beorc disappeared eventually, ousted by the derived form. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 28 at 9:54
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    It's only the Old English 'beorc' that had the diphthong 'eo' which is short, in 'frēond' the vowel is different, it's /e͜oː/, long. Naturally, a short vowel produced a short modern vowel and a long one produced a long modern vowel. As for 'people', it's a borrowing from Old French pueple, it appeared in Middle English era, it wasn't used in Old English, and it never had any diphthong, neither short nor long. – Yellow Sky Apr 29 at 20:53
  • Oh, okay, þanks, I probably should have checked to see ðat people was a loan word, my bad. – Quintus Caesius - RM Apr 29 at 23:54

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