Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Only one Germanic Language has Duplicated Preterites

Only one Germanic Language has Duplicated Preterites · Can Languages Borrow Basic Grammar from Each Other? Feat. Germanic and Finnish, Not Forgetting Phrygian

Gothic, probably along with Burgundian and Vandalic as well - except those aren't attested:

Given the fragmentary nature of the evidence aside from Gothic (§1.11), then, it is not possible to identify features that can with assurance be called distinctively East Germanic. A few of the features that distinguish Gothic from the NGmc. and WGmc. languages, however, may be indicated: (a) retention of reduplication in the seventh class of strong verbs, without innovatory replacements for these (§12:20);

R.D. Fulk : A Comparative Grammar of the Early Germanic Languages, p. 13

Looking up §12:20, I do not find there are several different ways (except ana-steroz as parallel form to ana-stiez and heht as parallel to hēt) in which the reduplication is replaced, but as single one, inserting -e- before the root vowel or diphthong. (Jasanoff is considered as rejecting this explanation, which is otherwise fairly well accepted these days.

If it were not for Germanic with Gothic taken as descending from a PIE which has reduplication in the perfect (pepuli in Latin from pello, pephyga in Greek from pheugo), one would perhaps not have concluded that Germanic in the Class VII strong verbs had originally reduplication as in Gothic, one could instead have concluded that ...

  • a) the original preterite marker in these verbs was indeed some kind of insertion of -e- before the vowel of the stem or root, rather ("stem" properly speaking is like preterite stem involving this -e-!);
  • b) this was somehow felt as awkward or not sufficiently clear in these verbs in Gothic, which then borrowed the reduplication from Greek or Latin
  • or b') Germanic was from start divided into dialects with or without this borrowing precisely in these verbs.

On the other side, we have the fact that the Germanic Ablaut system kind of matches the IE one ... post-Babelic Iavanite ancestral to Greek and whatever was the post-Babelic ancestor of Latin, plus post-Babelic Gomerite ancestral to Celtic as well as to an Anatolian tongue in Cappadocia (btw, do you recall that recent paper in which Celtic and Anatolian syntax are said to be closely related on the point of pre-verb particles and placing of negation and such?) may have borrowed the Ablaut feature from whatever Germanic came from. Or all Germanic have borrowed that feature, while perfect reduplication was just borrowed by Gothic branch.

I am not denying that each or at least each of most of the Indo-European common traits has a proto-language, I am just sceptic of this being for all traits the same one and separate from the diverse "branches". Languages exchanging features or traits occurs in Sprachbund situations.

What is the next feature distinguishing Gothic?

(b) genitive plural inflection in -ē in all noun classes except feminine ō-, ōn-, and ein-stems (cf. OHG OS -o, OE ON -a, §7.8); [ibid.]

This trait is not explicable in terms of a direct PIE origin for this feature of Gothic. The most accepted explanation I have heard of is, genitive plurals were originally all -ō, but then -ē replaced it in most positions. Obviously not in feminine ō-stems, though. And -ō could be a reflex of *PIE *-ōm. Reflected in turn in Greek attested -ōn, in Latin -um and a few more. Including the few Gothic ones in -ō.

Instead, Gothic -ē could be original for Gothic, cognate of AS -a, and then OHG -o may have been the way in which the "IE" genitive plural ending influenced some Gothic original -ē to become -ō. Or Gothic could originally have had this attested variation between -ē and -ō, and the AS and OHG forms attest analogic levelling.

A third fact is less than quite conducive to accepting Germanic was simply one branch descending from PIE.

For example, Schleicher’s tree reveals at a glance that there are greater similarities between the Baltic and the Slavic languages than are detectable between these and any other language group. But trees also by their nature make specific claims about issues that may in fact be controversial, such as the robustness of the affinity between Italic and Celtic, and the precise relation of Albanian to the other IE languages. The proper position of Germanic within such a tree is particularly difficult to determine.4 (page 6)

Why so, if isogloss after isogloss separates branch after branch?

Yet in most cases it is exceedingly difficult to specify with assurance particular affinities between IE branches, and this is especially true in connection with Germanic. Such similarities as are discoverable between Germanic and any other particular IE branch are not generally impressive and may not be common inheritances from the mother language but the result of later contact between neighboring peoples or of substrate influence (§§1.4–5) or, in some cases, of convergent but independent developments.1

What a contrast with intra-Germanic comparisons!

Generally we accept that:

  • a) N, W and E Germanic are distinct;
  • b) N split into West Norse, East Norse and Guthnic around or before AD 1000, and East Norse has since then been heavily influenced by Low German;
  • c) W first splits into Anglo-Frisian and German (with novelties on Anglo-Frisian ground) and then Anglo-Frisian into English and Frisian by AD 400 or before AD 500, by Anglo-Saxon conquest, of English the two modern languages are English and Scots;
  • d) German about the same time splits into High German (with innovations) and Low German, and Low German is in turn diversified - beforehand or by supervening splits - into Low Saxon, which is Low German proper and Low Franconian which is Dutch, Flemish and Afrikaans, the latter splitting off by a colonial situation.

So, Germanic cannot be traced along splits with any certainty within IE like Afrikaans can within Germanic. How remarcable.

One could of course consider PIE as starting with four dialects, the Satem innovation making an East-West divide in the West of it crossing a North-South divide where N = all of them make mediae aspiratae into mediae. Supposing of course, they did not start out as mediae, in which case it is the South which is innovating - in diverse ways. Within this NW quarter (*North Indo-European with mediae where Sanscrit has mediae aspiratae and Centum) we find only Celtic and Germanic, but Celtic is related to the "South" language group Italic, Germanic about equidistant (!) between Celtic, Italic, Greek and perhaps even (despite Satem being one of the isglosses separating them) Balto-Slavic. And Germanic separates by lots and lots of innovations. One of them shared with Phrygian, which is an Anatolian language .... or one can consider that story so remarcable as to be unlikely, and that instead Germanic, Italic, Greek at the lost very early stages borrowing traits and words from each other as well as from more Oriental languages. Which I do.

Although there has been widespread disagreement about the extent of the substrate vocabulary in Gmc., most scholars regard the incidence as particularly high in this branch: e.g., Markey (1988a: 7–8; cf. Kallio 1997: 127) estimates that such constitutes 28 percent of the Germanic ‘core’ vocabulary. (page 10)

In vocabulary overall, I had heard (as I recall a lecture fragment with my Greek professor) a figure as high as 80 % of words with no certain IE etymology. Note that Markey uses the escape clause of limiting the low number to "core" vocabulary, Fulk may have noted the word for that reason.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
Holy Guardian Angels

PS, here is a passage I missed, after the 28 % core vocabulary:

In this respect it is prudent to heed the advice of Polomé (1989: 54–5) about what criteria should be taken into account before lexical borrowings are posited:

(a) the lexical items under consideration must either belong to the basic vocabulary of the language or relate to the type of cultural activities that characterize the civilization of the pre-Indo-European population or describe specific elements relevant to the ecology of the area; (b) there must be clear evidence that the terms belong to the archaic vocabulary of the Northern European languages under investigation and that they can not plausibly be explained as part of their Indo-European heritage; (c) the vocabulary tentatively identified as ‘non-Indo-European’ must be screened for possible ancient borrowings from neighboring language families or ‘Wanderwörter’;[5] d) the terms must be analyzed linguistically to look for any discrepant phonological and/or morphological features that would point to their non-Indo-European background.

In other words, a clear preference to taking as much as possible of Germanic vocabulary as inherited from Proto-Indo-European ... perhaps even if there is no satisfactory etymology?/HGL

PPS, considering the screening for Wanderwörter, a phenomenon clearly harmonious with my take, also a clear preference against localised substrates of the type which fascinated Tolkien and inspired, partly, the invention of elf languages like Quenya./HGL

1 comment:

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

"the Satem innovation making an East-West divide in the West of it"

In the East of it, except that East is West of Tokharic, OK, I was tired!

The West was the part without the innovation.