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Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law

The sequence -nh- had already undergone a similar

change in late Proto-Germanic several hundred years ear-
lier, and affected all Germanic languages, not only the
Ingvaeonic subgroup. The result of this change was the
same: a long nasal vowel. However, the nasalization in
this earlier case did not cause rounding of nasal /ɑ̃ ː/ in Old
Saxon, which instead became simple /ɑː/, while the later
Ingvaeonic spirant law resulted in /oː/. In Old English and
Old Frisian, rounding occurred here as well, giving /oː/ in
both cases.

2 Examples
Compare the first person plural pronoun “us” in various
old Germanic languages:

The distribution of the primary Germanic dialect groups in

Europe in around AD 1:
North Germanic
Gothic represents East Germanic, and its correspon-
North Sea Germanic, or Ingvaeonic dence to German and Standard Dutch shows it retains
Weser-Rhine Germanic, or Istvaeonic the more conservative form. The /n/ has disappeared in
Elbe Germanic, or Irminonic English, Frisian, Low German, and dialectal Dutch with
East Germanic compensatory lengthening of the /u/. This phenomenon
is therefore observable throughout the “Ingvaeonic” lan-
guages. It does not affect High German, East Germanic
In historical linguistics, the Ingvaeonic nasal spi- or North Germanic.
rant law (also called the Anglo-Frisian or North Likewise:
Sea Germanic nasal spirant law) is a description
of a phonological development that occurred in the
Ingvaeonic dialects of the West Germanic languages. • Germanic *tanþs > English tooth, North Frisian tôs,
This includes Old English, Old Frisian, and Old Saxon, toss (vs. Low German Tähn, Dutch, Danish, and
and to a small degree Old Dutch (Old Low Franconian). Swedish tand, German Zahn, Icelandic tönn).

• Germanic *anþeraz > English other, Ice-

landic aðrir, West Frisian oar, West Flemish
1 Overview (Frans-Vlaams) aajer, Old Saxon ōðar, āthar
(vs. Low German anner, German/Dutch an-
der [þ > d], Icelandic: annað/annar/önnur,
The sound change affected sequences of vowel + nasal Swedish annat/annan/andre/andra, Danish an-
consonant + fricative consonant. (“Spirant” is an older den/andet/andre).
term for “fricative”.) The sequences in question are -ns-,
-mf-, and -nþ-, preceded by any vowel. The nasal con- • Germanic *gans > English goose, West Frisian goes,
sonant disappeared, sometimes causing nasalization and guos, Low German Goos, Faroese gás, Danish and
compensatory lengthening of the vowel before it. The Swedish gås (vs. Dutch gans, German Gans).
nasalization disappeared relatively soon after, but it was
retained long enough to prevent Anglo-Frisian brighten- • Germanic *fimf > English five, West Frisian fiif,
ing of /ɑː/ to /æː/. The resulting long nasalized vowel /ɑ̃ ː/ East Frisian fieuw, Dutch vijf, Low German fiev,
was rounded to /oː/ in most languages under various cir- fief (vs. German fünf, Icelandic fimm, Danish and
cumstances. Swedish fem).


• Germanic *samftō, -ijaz > English soft, West Frisian trekken. Gedacht dient te worden aan een ge-
sêft, Low German sacht, Dutch zacht [ft > xt] (vs. bied zonder ingweoonse kenmerken en in het
German sanft). licht van de immigratiestromen in die tijd ligt
dan veeleer Brabantse invloed voor de hand.
(Translation) “Except for brocht > bracht
3 English “brought”, the possible influence of the north-
eastern dialects [Low Saxon] cannot be cited
as evidence, since they also show quite a lot of
English shows the results of the shift consistently through-
ingvaeonic traits. One must instead think of a
out its repertoire of native lexemes. One consequence of
region without ingvaeonic traits, and given the
this is that English has very few words ending in -nth;
direction of immigration of that time [into Hol-
those that exist must have entered the vocabulary subse-
land’s larger southern cities following the fall
quent to the productive period of the nasal spirant law:
of Antwerp in 1585], Brabantine influence is a
straightforward explanation.”
• month - derives from Old English monaþ (cf. Ger- — Johan Taeldeman, “De opbouw van het
man Monat); the intervening vowel rendered the law AN: meer zuidelijke dan oostelijke impulsen”,
inapplicable here. in Tijdschrift voor de Nederlandse Taal- en
• tenth - from Middle English tenthe. The origi- Letterkunde, deel 123 (2007), afl. 2, p. 104.
nal Germanic *tehundô, which was regularised to
*tehunþô in early Ingvaeonic, was affected by the
law, producing Old English teogoþa, tēoþa (Modern
English tithe). But the force of analogy with the car- 5 German
dinal number ten caused Middle English speakers to
recreate the regular ordinal and re-insert the nasal The spirant law was originally active in Central Franco-
consonant. nian dialects of High German, a proof that it was not
• plinth - a loanword in Modern English from Greek entirely restricted to Ingvaeonic. Compare for example
(πλίνθος “brick, tile”). Luxembourgish eis (“us”), Gaus (“goose”, now archaic).
Modern Standard German is based more on eastern va-
rieties which are not affected by the shift. The standard
Likewise, the rare occurrences of the combinations -nf-,
language does, however, contain a number of Low Ger-
-mf- and -ns- have similar explanations.
man borrowings with it. For example Süden (“south”),
sacht (“soft, gentle”) alongside native sanft.
• answer - originally had an intervening dental: Old
English andswaru.
• unfair - the prefix un- is still productive. 6 References
• Bremmer Jr, Rolf H. An Introduction to Old Frisian.
4 Dutch History, Grammar, Reader, Glossary. (Amsterdam
and Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2009.)
Although Dutch is based mostly on the Hollandic dialects, • Markey, Thomas L. Germanic dialect grouping and
which in turn were influenced by Frisian, it was also heav- the position of Ingvæonic.(Inst. f. Sprachwis-
ily influenced by the Brabantian dialect which tends not senschaft d. Univ. Innsbruck, 1976.) ISBN 3-
to show a shift. As a result, the shift is generally not 85124-529-6
applied but is still applied to some words. For example
Dutch vijf vs. German fünf, zacht vs. sanft. Coastal di- • Ringe, Donald R. and Taylor, Ann (2014). The De-
alects of Dutch tend to have more examples, e.g. standard velopment of Old English - A Linguistic History of
Dutch mond “mouth” vs. Hollandic mui (earlier muide) English, vol. II, 632p. ISBN 978-0199207848. Ox-
“slit between sandbanks where tidal streams flow into”. ford.
Brabantian dialects tend to have fewer examples, having
unshifted examples in a few cases where standard Dutch
has the shift, as in the toponym Zonderwijk (Veldhoven)
which is cognate to standard Dutch zuid “south”.

(Original) Met uitzondering van brocht >

bracht kan mogelijke invloed van de noordoost-
elijke dialecten hier niet ingeroepen worden,
want die vertoonden ook vrij veel ingweoonse

7 Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses

7.1 Text
• Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law Source: Contributors:
Rmhermen, Edward, DopefishJustin, Branddobbe, Tomchiukc, Benwing, Rich Farmbrough, Dbachmann, Kbh3rd, Kwamikagami, Ish
ishwar, Angr, Swiftblade21, Maartenvdbent, Doric Loon, Rjwilmsi, YurikBot, Ptcamn, Hayden120, Sardanaphalus, SmackBot, Yam-
aguchi , Enkyklios, Mike hayes, Joseph Solis in Australia, RokasT~enwiki, CapitalR, Stifynsemons, Thijs!bot, Flibjib8, Magioladitis,
CodeCat, Mrg3105, DorganBot, Classical geographer, Synthebot, SieBot, Danog-76, Addbot, C1614, Ehrenkater, Erutuon, ElNuevoEin-
stein, Ida Shaw, DownUnder36, Helpful Pixie Bot, Davidiad, Bernorix, Krakkos, Gati123, Wouter Maes and Anonymous: 25

7.2 Images
• File:Germanic_dialects_ca._AD_1.png Source:
1.png License: CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 Contributors: Based on Germanic Groups ca. 0CE.jpg by Varoon Arya (source used is König,
Werner (2001). dtv-Atlas Deutsche Sprache. München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag 2001. ISBN: 3-423-03025-9; pp. 46, 52.). Addi-
tionally, corrections have been made (e.g. North Germanic spoken on the island of Zealand, rather than East Germanic). Original artist:

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