In learning spelling and pronunciation rules for English, German, and Swedish, I always assumed that Germanic languages tend to distinguish stressed short and long vowels according to orthographic syllabic structure. Where there is only one consonant, the consonant seems almost always to be doubled after short vowels (except word finally in English and except for "k," which is usually written "ck," and except for digraphs like "ch" and "th"). I believe such syllables are actually pronounced in Swedish with a phonetically long consonant, unlike the case in English and German.

If I posit Swedish as representing the older state of Germanic languages in this respect, it would seem that stress syllables "originally" had to be at least two moras in length in Germanic languages, requiring short vowels to appear only in closed syllables.

Could someone explain the origin of these facts and whether they merely represent some orthographic tradition or whether they represent some earlier reality about the phonotactics present at some stage of Germanic languages?

I just realized that I should edit my question to clarify that in German, and I believe in Swedish as well, a syllable may by written as an orthographically closed one (e.g., German: er hebt), but still represent a morpheme that ordinarily has an open syllable and a long vowel. Adding another consonant morpheme does not change the long vowel to a short one in such cases, which are largely predictable for those familiar with the language and the other forms of the morpheme with other endings. As a result, I am not referring to the surface orthography of German, but the slightly deeper one.

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    You should take a look at Old Norse for a bit more back story on Swedish: in ON, syllables could be short/light (one mora: short V + no C), long/heavy (two morae: long V + no C or short V + short C) or overlong/[over-heavy?] (three morae: long V + short or long C). In later stages, only heavy syllables remained when stressed: vowels in short syllables were lengthened, and long vowels in overlong syllables were shortened (but their ‘contours’ were kept, so for example á [ɑʊː] was shortened to [ɑʊ̯] in Icelandic, not [a]). Mar 4, 2022 at 21:15


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