What is the reason of w dissimilation?

Gothic waurts + gards ~ aurtigards
OE wyrt +‎ ġeard ~ ortgeard

1 Answer 1


Obviously there is no dissimilation going on in the OE form wyrt or the Gothic form waurts, because there is no internal similarity to dissimilate; the dissimilation would have happened in the Proto-Germanic form *wurtiz, where the similarity of the *w to the following *u gave rise to the former's deletion and the creation of the form *urtiz. That's the form that (likely) would have gone into the common ancestor of orchard and aurtigards.
Since the semivowel [w] is merely the non-syllabic version of [u], it often undergoes (systematic or incidental) deletion when appearing next to it in a lot of languages. The boukólos rule in PIE is the famous example here, and it also happened again in Germanic.

(When Wiktionary claims ortgeard is equivalent to wyrt +‎ ġeard, that doesn't mean it was formed from literally those two words in those forms, but only that the constituent parts are in some sense equivalent. And when it claims aurtigards is cognate with English orchard, you can't then combine that claim with the previous and assume the direct Gothic cognates of wyrt and ġeard, waurts and gards, must be the forms that went into the Gothic word. Please use your sources critically.
I'm guessing you also got the idea that dissimilation is involved at all from Wiktionary, as the orchard entry mentions it; this would have been good to mention on your part. It also explicitly mentions *urtiz.)

  • Thank you, I rephrase my question "Why the uu/ u dissimilation at the beggining of words did happen only in PGmc word *wurtiz? or Why the dissimilation did not happen in PGmc *wurdą , *wurkijaną, *wurt- ?" Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 20:06
  • Unknown. Non-systematic sound changes are common but always a bit awkward. Could be a dialectical borrowing. *wurtiz and its apparent cognates in other languages show a lot of hard-to-explain variation.
    – Cairnarvon
    Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 20:18
  • What do the letters y and au refer to in OE and Gothic?
    – user6726
    Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 21:39
  • @user6726 /y/ and /ɔ/ in this case, respectively.
    – Cairnarvon
    Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 23:14
  • And these are round vowels, which is an internal similarity.
    – user6726
    Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 0:25

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