23 votes

Does the letter p in a word mean that the word is not Germanic?

Not always. Grimm's Law predicts that Proto-Indo-European *b would turn into Proto-Germanic *p. However, Proto-Indo-European *b is vanishingly rare, and some scholars argue it didn't actually exist in ...
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14 votes

Does the letter p in a word mean that the word is not Germanic?

No, because PIE *p does not always become f. It does not in the cluster sp, for example "spin" < *spen, "sprawl" < *sper. Germanic p regularly derives from b, e.g. "deep&...
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11 votes
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Have ejective consonants ever arisen on their own?

It is almost true, in the sense that there are nearly no cases of ejectives unambiguously developing and clearly without external influence. There are two good candidates, though: Yapese and Waimoa. ...
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10 votes

Am I using the right terms in referring to "soft" and "hard" vowels and consonants?

The terms "hard" and "soft" aren't used in linguistics; instead, we describe the difference in terms of the difference in production (the vowel of "father" is a back vowel transcribed as [a] or [ɑ], ...
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  • 66.5k
10 votes

s / h change in Indo-European languages

This is a common sound change. [h] has no constriction above the larynx, and involves spreading the glottis so that any noise generated is turbulence as the air flows through the glottis. Most of the ...
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10 votes
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Why did German <d> and <t> flip over?

You have a few different correspondences here; I'll go through them individually. day ~ dag ~ dag ~ Tag This is part of the second German consonant shift (or the High German consonant shift). Among ...
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10 votes
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Apart from French, does any language have voicing-dependent change of place of articulation?

I don't think it's at all common for alveolopalatal and/or sibilant consonants to undergo place changes that are directly conditioned by the presence or absence of voicing: French doesn't actually ...
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10 votes

Is there a sound change from [ɡ] to [i] or [j]?

There certainly is. For example, final -y in English often comes from an older -ig (and there is often a current German cognate that ends in -ig) It's a widespread phenomenon, one form of ...
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10 votes
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Apparent exceptions to the sound law f -> h in old Spanish

Some of these words were re-loaned from Classical Latin after the change of Old Spanish /f/ to /h/ had stopped: compare loaned forma "shape" against inherited horma "mold" (as you ...
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9 votes

πίστις & ἐλπίζω related linguistically?

These words are not considered to be related. πίστις ‘faith, trust’ and the verb πείθομαι ‘to trust, obey, be persuaded’ come from Indo-European *bhidh-, related to Latin fides, with *bh- > *ph- > p ...
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9 votes
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Why does French "cheveu(x)" have "eu" and not "eau"?

L /kasˈtɛl.lʊm/ > VL /kasˈtɛl.lũ/ > OF /t͡ʃahˈtɛl/ > MF /ʃaˈtɛau/> F /ʃaˈto/ L /ˈwɛ.tʊ.lʊm/ > VL /ˈβɛ.lũ/ > /ˈvjɛ.lu/ > OF /vjɛl/ > MF /vjɛu/ > F /vjø/ L /kaˈpɪl.lʊm/ ...
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9 votes

Words in English which elided medial 'g' or 'v' (or initial 'h' before 'l', 'n', or 'r')

All the following information comes from Christopher Upward's The History of English Spelling: Words that lost initial ‘h’: OE hlaf ModE ‘loaf’ OE hlud ModE ‘loud’ OE hlædder ModE ‘ladder’ OE ...
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  • 1,369
8 votes
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What is the history of the sound spelled <â> or <î> (IPA /ɨ/) in Romanian?

wrt. the other answer: Romanian sfânt does NOT come from Latin sanctum, but from Slavic svętъ (compare with Polish święty); most Romanian (and Hungarian) Slavic borrowings turned the nasal vowels (...
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  • 96
8 votes

Am I using the right terms in referring to "soft" and "hard" vowels and consonants?

There is no universal technical meaning for 'hard' and 'soft' when it comes to sounds. You will not find it used by professional phoneticians. However, within many languages, there are pedagogic ...
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8 votes
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How these close sounds are distinguished in native language

If you mean "what can I do to learn the distinctions", you need repeated and varied exposure to the sounds in question, and you need some method of telling if you're correct in your hearing and ...
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8 votes

Why does Sankr. नक्ति (nákti) not show Satemization

As commonly reconstructed, PIE had three different types of "velar-ish" plosives: "Palatal velars" (probably plain velar): *ḱ, *ǵ, *ǵʰ "Plain velars" (probably uvular): *k, *g, *gʰ "Labial velars" (...
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8 votes

What is the best linguistic term for describing the kw > p / gw > b change, and its usual companion s > h

The change from /s/ to /h/ is called debuccalization, from Latin bucca, "mouth". The name is generally applied to any change that turns a non-glottal sound glottal, since it's moving the articulation "...
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8 votes
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Why did Finnish and Sami noun-final A and I flip over?

I recommend Pekka Sammallahti's historical analysis (collectively, and I think most extensively in The Saami languages). He does does not go straight from proto-FS to North Saami or base his analysis ...
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7 votes

How does the initial consonant in "Jupiter" and "Zeus" come from the "d" in PIE "*dyew-"?

The Proto-Indo-European form behind Zeus is reconstructed as *dyēw-s, with the oblique stem *diw- used for all forms except nominative, accusative, and vocative. This sort of alternation between *yē ...
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7 votes

How do we get "four" when it doesn't follow Grimm's law?

There is no straightforward explanation for Germanic, but influence from "5" is suspected. There is an article (Patrick Stiles, 1986, NOWELE 8: 3-25) which addresses this but it's not available to me.
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7 votes
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Voicing as lenition

It's not based so much in what feels stronger, but on the overall patterns of sound changes. There is a tendency for voiceless consonants to become voiced, and voiced consonants to become continuants ...
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  • 1,484
7 votes

Are sound changes regular?

I'm only an amateur in historical linguistics, so my viewpoint is fairly naïve. I'd say: not always, but often enough to make regularity the most important consideration in reconstruction. In modern ...
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  • 16.5k
7 votes

West Germanic Th-Stopping

Th-stopping of original Proto-Germanic voiced /d~ð/ to /d/ in all contexts is normal for Old English. It seems to be a common feature of West Germanic languages. The modern-day /ð/ in "father" is due ...
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7 votes

How did Proto-Indo-European *septm evolve into English "seven"?

The excellent German etymological dictionary by Pfeiffer has this: sieben Num. Ahd. sibun (8. Jh.), mhd. siben (md. siven), asächs. siҍun, mnd. sēven, sȫven, mnl. sēven, nl. zeven, aengl. seofon, ...
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7 votes
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Possible diachronic developments of th sounds

Proto-Semitic *ϑ becomes /ϑ/ in (classical) Arabic, /t/ in Aramaic and some Arabic dialects, /ʃ/ in Hebrew, /s/ in Amharic, /f/ in some Arabic dialects. Proto-Semitic *δ becomes /δ/ in (classical) ...
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  • 22.6k
7 votes

How did Latin get its stress pattern?

I'm afraid the most satisfying answer I can give is, these things just change over time, without a solid reason. It's like asking why the vowels in Middle English chain-shifted so dramatically: vowels ...
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  • 50.9k
7 votes
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Why does Sankr. नक्ति (nákti) not show Satemization

There are three different series of guttural sounds reconstructed for Proto-Indogermanic, that are usually represented by *k' (the k that gets satemised), *k (plain k that stays k), and *kʷ (that has ...
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7 votes

Proto-Polynesian reconstruction and ambiguities in Hawaiian, Maori, Samoan and Tongan

Tongan /s/ seems to be the regular reflex of *t before /i/. Wikipedia says Tongan has retained the original proto-Polynesian *h, but has merged it with the original *s as /h/. (The /s/ found in ...
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7 votes
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Are consonants more stable than vowels?

There are some factors that make vowels more volatile than consonants in general Consonants have fixed points of articulation and modes of articulation while vowels live in a continuous space In most ...
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7 votes

Is Ruki sound law a Satem "Rhotacism"

No. Some instances of Proto-Indo-European *s were rhotacized in Germanic; some instances of PIE *s went to /x/ in Slavic by the Ruki rule. There is some overlap between the two sets, but the ...
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