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Theme 5. Linguistic features of the Germanic languages


The English language belongs to the group of the Germanic languages.



The Germanic languages possess several unique features, such as the following:

1. The shifting of stress accent onto the root of the stem and later to the first syllable of the word. Though English has an irregular stress, native words always have a fixed stress regardless of how many and what morphemes are added to them. The result of the heavy fixed word stress was very important for development of the languages: unstressed syllables were pronounced weaker and weaker until they disappeared: flasce → flask, seofon→seven


2. The consonant shift known as Grimms Law. According to Grimm's Law, certain consonant sounds found in ancient Indo-European languages (such as Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit) underwent a change in the Germanic tongue. For example, the sounds p, d, t, and k in Latin correspond to f, t, th, and h respectively in English:

p → f (ped/foot, pisc/fish, pater/father, pyro/fire)

t → ө (th-sound) (tres/three, tu/thou, frater/brother).

k→ h (centum/hundred, cord/heart, cannabis/hemp, canard/hana, cornu/horn)

d → t (dent/tooth, duo/two, decem/ten)

g → k (genu/knee, genus/kin, gelidus/cold).

3. Other common features of Germanic consonants:

pronouncing voiceless plosives , t, k with aspiration (except Dutch, Afrikaans);

opposing voiceless and voiced (except Icelandic, Danish, Faroese, where all plosives correlate due to aspiration);

devoicing of voiced plosives at the end of the morpheme (except English, Frisian, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian).


4. Common features of Germanic vowels:

diphthongs in all languages except Swedish;

differentiation of short and long vowels;

reduction of unstressed vowels; in endings in all languages except Icelandic, Swedish, Faroese.

5. The levelling of the Indo-European tense and aspect system into the present and past tense (also called preterit ( - ΄). There are two voices: active and passive; three moods: indicative, imperative, subjunctive.

6. The use of a dental suffix (/d/ or /t/) to indicate past tense. This dental suffix has its variants in different languages: -d, -t, -þ:

Old. Saxon: thênkian thâhta (to think)

Old. Scandinav.: calla callaða (to call)

Gothic: sōkjan sōkida (to search)

7. The presence of two distinct types of verb conjugation: weak (using dental suffix (as in English care, cared, cared or look, looked, looked; German fragen, fragte, gefragt )) and strong (using ablaut (as in English lie, lay, lain or ring, rang, rung; German ringen, rang, gerungen )).


8. Another distinctive characteristic is the umlaut - a type of vowel change in the root of a word caused by partial assimilation to a vowel or semivowel occurring in the following syllable (fot (singular), fötter (plural) in Swedish; and Kampf (singular), Kämpfe (plural) in German.)


9. Two numbers: singular and plural (dual forms like in OE pronouns wit - we two, OE git you two, only in Gothic).

10. Some distinctive characteristic shared by the Germanic nouns are:

-general and genitive case (4 cases Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative) are preserved in German, Icelandic, Faeroese). In Afrikaans case flexions are absent; -singular, plural (the most number of formal indicators of the plural is presented in German there are 5of them, the least in English)

-masculine, feminine, neutral genders in German, Norwegian, Icelandic, Faeroese, Yiddish; general and neutral in Swedish, Danish, Dutch, Frisian


11. Comparison of adjectives in the Germanic languages follows a parallel pattern, as in English: rich, richer, richest; German reich, reicher, reichst; and Swedish rik, rikare, rikast.


12. Formation of the genitive singular by the addition of -s or -es. Examples are English man, man's; Swedish hund, hunds; German Lehrer, Lehrers or Mann, Mannes. English has 161 strong verbs; almost all are of Germanic origin.


13. Articles: the article exists in late Germanic (but neither in Gothic nor in Old English), in several Slavic languages (so-called "Balkan language alliance" (Macedonian, Bulgarian)


14. Syntax:

a. tendency to a fixed word order, especially verb predicate;

b. inversion in emphatic, interrogative, imperative constructions and clauses.



15. Vocabulary:a number of basic words in these languages are similar in form: cf. English (Finger) Dutch (Vinger); German (Finger); Gothic (Figgrs); Icelandic (Fingur); Swedish (Finger); Danish (Finger).

16. Writing.From the 2nd to 7th AD the runic alphabet or Futhark is in use (from the first few letters). Runes were also used in divination and magic. Supposed origin of runes is ancient North Italian alphabet




Latin alphabet is introduced in the7th AD in England, 8th AD Germania, since 11th AD Iceland, Norway, 13th AD- Sweden, Denmark



Date: 2015-12-11; view: 3853

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