Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Proto-Germanic Origins

Φιλολoγικά/Philologica: Fairly good overview, but two remarks · Assorted retorts from yahoo boards and elsewhere: Proto-Germanic Origins

How did Proto-Germanic language emerge? What Indo-European languages is it most closely related to?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
studied Latin at Lund University
Answered just now
"How did Proto-Germanic language emerge?"

We don't know, because we don't know whether it branched off from Proto-Indo-European or was a language of its own that became Indo-Europeanised. On this issue, we have Grimm against Trubetskoy.

"What Indo-European languages is it most closely related to?"

Let's see ... it is a Centum language and it is what I would consider as North Indo-European : bh, dh, g'h, gh become b, d, g, (g)w in Centum and b, d, j, g in Satem languages. Or, since I emitted doubts on PIE being the common ground, instead of "become" say "correspond to".

Now, it has Celtic as other Northern Indo-European to the West, Baltic as other to the East, precisely as Baltic is between Germanic and Slavic. Celtic and Germanic are Centum, Baltic and Slavic are Satem.

Related will hold whether we talk of common proto-language or mutual influence and borrowings.

It may be noted, it has one commonality with both Finnish and Hungarian, non-Indo-European languages of the Finno-Ugrian family (which is looser knit together than Germanic or Celtic, but closer than Indo-European with both and Greek and Sanskrit), namely verbs have one past (except English where past simple and past continuous contrast, but the continuous form is a novelty, from French or Welsh influence, as I presume, and mainly later than Shakespear). In Indo-European languages you more often find a contrast between preterite (simple past) and imperfect (continuous OR iterated OR habitual past) - Old Irish has an imperfect 3rd sg in -ed or -ad after present stem, and a preterite 3rd sg ending as the preterite stem does, Latin has an imperfect 3rd sg mostly in -bat, a "perfect" (double service as present perfect and as preterite) with -it after a perfect stem, Greek likewise, where both imperfect and aorist begin in e- and end in 3rd sg in -e, but with present stem and aorist stem, while Germanic actually is content with one past tense, like Finnish and Hungarian.

It has one commonality with Hungarian, but not with Finnish, namely part of Grimm's law. Precisely as C - really K - in C-entum corresponds to Germanic H in H-und(red), so also Finnish K in K-ala(staa) corresponds to Hungarian H in H-al.

It may be noted, my teacher in Old Greek told me, Germanic has only 20 % of its vocabulary from Indo-European by heritage. This has been contested by others.

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