Germanic spirant law

Germanic Spirant Law

Germanic spirant law

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In linguistics, the Germanic spirant law or Primärberührung is a specific historical instance of assimilation that occurred early in the history of the Germanic languages. Some linguists regard it as early enough to fall into the same general context as Grimm's and Verner's law.

General description

The law affects the new voiced and voiceless stops b, d, g, and p, t, k that Grimm's and Verner's law produced from different series of consonants in Proto-Indo-European. If these were immediately followed by a t, they changed to a voiceless fricative (spirant):

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Effect on labials and velars

Under normal conditions, any voiced stop would have been devoiced before in Indo-European times as well. This means that all three Indo-European series of stop consonants (aspirated, voiced and voiceless) had already merged before , so that the sequences and had already become and by late Proto-Indo-European. Compare for example Latin scribere "to write" and legere "to gather, read" with their past participles scriptus and lectus.

Therefore, the specifically Germanic part of the change, in which the first stop became a fricative but not the following it, was probably just an exception to Grimm's law. This exception is also seen in cases where the first consonant was , in which case any following Indo-European , and were preserved. It is therefore best to say that if two obstruents stand next to each other, the first...
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