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The OHG. Development of the Primitive Germanic Vowels of Unaccented Syllables.


A. The Vowels of Final Syllables


57. 1. Final long vowels, inherited from primitive Germanic, became shortened already in primitive High German:

-ō became -u, as biru from *berō = Gr. ferw, I bear ; instr. sg. tagu from dagō, by day.

-ī became -i, as pret. subj. 1. and 3. pers. sg. nāmi beside 3. pers. pl. nāmīn..

These short vowels then underwent the same further development in OHG. as original short u and i. See below.

2. a (=Indg. o and a), which was originally final or became final through the loss of a following consonant, disappeared in dissyllabic and polysyllabic forms already in prim. High German.

u and i, which were originally final or became final through the loss of a following consonant, disappeared in trisyllabic and polysyllabic forms. They, as well as the u and i, which arose from the shortening of ō and ī, disappeared also in dissyllabic forms when the first syllable was long, but remained when the first syllable was short. The regular operation of this law was often disturbed by analogical formations.

Regular forms were: OHG. wei=Gr. oida, I know; OHG. nom. wolf from *wulfaz=Gr. lukoV, wolf; OHG. bran from *beranan, pre-Germanic *bheronom, to bear; OHG. wei=Gr. oide, he knows; OHG. 3. pers. pret. sg. kōs, bant from *kausi, *bandi, pre-Germanic *gouse, *bhondhe. OHG. ist=Gr. esti, is; OHG. gast from *gaatiz, guest=Lat. hostis; OHG. meri, sea, cp. Lat. pl. mari-a; OHG. wini from *winiz, friend, OHG. tōd= Goth. duus, death; OHG. fluot=Goth. flōdus, flood. OHG. fihu=Goth. fahu, Lat. pecus, cattle; OHG. nom. sunu=Goth. sunus, son; OHG. situ=Goth. sidus, custom; OHG. biru, Gr. fero, I bear. Then after the analogy of these and similar forms were made stat for *steti, place; sun beside sunu, son; hilfu for *hilf, I help; &c.

3. Later than the shortening mentioned under 1, occurred the shortening which was experienced in dissyllabic and polysyllabic words by the long vowel, after which an -n or -z had disappeared, and by the -ē and -ō from older -ai and -au, which were either already final in prim. Germanic, or had become so after the loss of -z as well as by the -i which had arisen from older -iji. In this case a distinction must be made according as the long vowel originally had the slurred or the 'broken' accent. In the former case -ō became -o and in the latter case -a in OHG, This shortening also took place in prim. High German. Examples are:gen. pl. OHG. tago from *dagōn, of days; gen. pi. zungōno, Goth. tuggōnō, of tongues; nom. sg. OHG. hano from *canōn, cock; but nom. pl. OHG. taga, Goth. dagōs; nom. sg. OHG. hrza, Goth. harto, heart; acc. sg. OHG. gba, gift, cp. Gr. cwran; nom. pl. masc. OHG. blinte, Goth. blindi, blind; loc. sg. used as dat. OHG. tage from *dagai, cp. Gr. oikoi, at home; OHG. ahto, Goth* ahtu, eight; gen. sg. OHG. suno, Goth. sunus, of a son; OHG. wili from *wiliz, thou wilt; nom. pl. OHG. gesti from *gastiz, older *gastijiz, cp Gr. poleiV from *pogeieV, cities; OHG. imper. neri from *nazī, older *naziji, save thou.


58. OHG. short and long vowels remained in final syllables when followed by a consonant, as neut sg. blinta, blind; acc. inan, him; inf. hlfan, to help; gen. tages, of a day ; gen. dat. hanen, hrzen beside nom. hano, cock, hrza, heart; nom. acc. pl. lembir, lambs; dat. pl. enstim, to favours; nimit, he takes; ubil, evil; acc. hanon, cock; sibun, seven; dat. pl. tagum, to days; habēn, to have; nemēs, thou mayest take; dat. pl. blintēm, blind; mahtīg, mighty; tiurlīh, dear; dat. pl. hōhīm, to heights; nāmīs, thou mightest take; salbōn, to anoint; suohtōs, thou soughtest; dat. pl. gbōm, zungōm beside nom. sg. gba, gift, zunga, tongue; acc. gen. dat. sg. zungūn.


59. If a nasal or a liquid, preceded by a mute consonant, came to stand finally after the loss of a, it became vocalic and then generated a new a before it, as nom. ace. ban, even, from * bn, older * bnaz, bnan; nom. acc. fogal, bird, from *fogl, older *foglaz, *foglan; nom. acc. acchar, acre, field, from *akr, older *akraz, *akran; &c.

The a, thus generated, became transferred to the oblique cases also, at first after short syllables, and then later after long syllables as well, e.g. fogales, wuntare, &c.


B. The Vowels of other than Final Syllables


60. Here can merely be stated the more important phenomena; for the rest the student must be referred to the various articles on the subject in Paul and Braune's Beitrge zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache und Literatur and to ch. ii in Braune's Althochdeutsche Grammatik, 2nd edition, 1891.


61. The i in the preterite and past participle of weak verbs, class I, was regularly syncopated after long stem syllables, as branta, 1burnt, pp. gibrantēr; hōrta, 1heard, pp. gihorter; beside nerita, I saved, pp. gineritēr, &c.


62. Medial vowels were often assimilated to final vowels, as keisar, emperor, gen. keiseres; wuntorōn, to wonder beside wuntar; sibun, seven, beside inflected form sibini; &c.


63. In all High German dialects a vowel was develop between medial rh and lh, as also before w in the combinations rw, lw, and sw. The vowel thus developed appears mostly as a or o, but it not unfrequently regulated itself as the quality of a neighbouring vowel, cp, 59. Examples are:braht, Goth. barhts, clear; furhten, to be afraid, beside pret. forhta, forahta; wurken, to work, beside pp. worhta, worahta; flhan beside flahan, to hide, bifiluha I hide, bifilihit, he hides; garo, ready, inflected form garawes beside garawr; mlo, meal, flour, gen. melws beside dat. mlewe; zswa, right hand, beside zesawe.


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