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The Germanic substrate hypothesis is an attempt to explain the distinctive nature of the Germanic languages within the context of the Indo-European language family. It posits that the elements of the common Germanic vocabulary and syntactical forms, which do not seem to have an Indo-European origin, essentially represent a creole language: a contact language synthesis between Indo-European speakers and a non-Indo-European substrate language used by the ancestors of the speakers of the Proto-Germanic language. The theory was first proposed by Sigmund Feist in 1932, who estimated that roughly 1/3 of the Proto-Germanic lexical items came from a non-Indo-European substrate and that the supposed reduction of the Proto-Germanic inflectional system was the result of pidginization with that substrate. The culture and tribes from which the hypothesized substrate material originated continues to be a subject of academic debate and study. Notable candidates for possible substrate culture(s) are the Ertebølle culture, Funnelbeaker culture, Pitted Ware culture and the Corded Ware culture.
- 1 Distinct language group
- 2 Non-Indo-European influence
- 3 Words derived from non-Indo-European languages
- 4 Controversy
- 5 See also
- 6 References
Distinct language group
That the Germanic languages form a markedly distinct group within Indo-European is beyond question. Grimm's law was a profound sound change that affected all of the stops inherited from Indo-European. The Germanic languages also share common innovations in grammar as well as in phonology: half of the noun cases featured in what are commonly regarded as the more conservative languages such as Sanskrit or Lithuanian are not present in Germanic. (However, other Indo-European languages attested much earlier than the Germanic languages, such as Hittite, also have a reduced inventory of noun cases. It is not certain whether Germanic and Hittite have lost them, or whether they never shared in their acquisition.) The Germanic verb has also been extensively remodelled, showing fewer grammatical moods, and markedly decreasing the inflections in use for the passive voice.
Hybridization as conjectured cause
It has been suggested that Proto-Germanic arose as a hybrid of two Indo-European dialects, one each of Centum and Satem types though they would have been mutually intelligible at the time of hybridization. This hypothesis may help to explain the difficulty of finding the right place for Germanic within the Indo-European family. However, the Germanic languages are commonly classified as Centum languages, because of the words *hund, not !sund ("hundred", ~ centum with guttural fricative according to Grimm's law) and *hwis, not !his ("who", ~ Latin quis). On the other hand, "sand" in "thousand" is exactly the "sund", i.e. "ten"="tho-" "hundreds"="-sand"/"-sun(d)"/"-send"
Germanic has some words which seem to ignore Grimm's law:
Where Proto-Germanic shows a "p" the typical PIE reflex is "b", however Sanskrit also shows a "p", seemingly indicating that the PIE form also included a "p". However, if this is true, then the Germanic reflex should be ūf instead of ūp.
Note, German auf contains "f" due to result of the much later High German consonant shift in which High German p became f under certain conditions. Thus, both auf and ūp go back to a previous form containing p.
The Germanic substrate hypothesis attempts to explain these features as a result of creolization with a non-Indo-European language. Writing an introductory article to the Germanic languages in The Major Languages of Western Europe, Germanicist John A. Hawkins sets forth the arguments for a Germanic substrate. Hawkins argues that the proto-Germans encountered a non-Indo-European speaking people and borrowed many features from their language. He hypothesizes that the first sound shift of Grimm's Law was the result of non-native speakers attempting to pronounce Indo-European sounds, and that they resorted to the closest sounds in their own language in their attempt to pronounce them. The Battle-axe people is an ancient culture identified by archaeology who have been proposed as candidates for the people who influenced Germanic with their non-Indo-European speech. Alternatively, in the framework of the Kurgan hypothesis, the Battle-axe people may be seen as an already "kurganized" culture built on the substrate of the earlier Funnelbeaker culture.
Proponents of the theory sometimes call the alleged non-Indo-European element in Germanic Folkish, on the assumption that the Germanic root folk is not an Indo-European word.
Kalevi Wiik, a phonologist, has put forward a controversial hypothesis that the pre-Germanic substrate was of Finnic origin. Wiik claimed that there are similarities between mistakes in English pronunciation typical of Finnish speakers and the historical sound changes from Proto-Indo-European to proto-Germanic. Wiik's argument is based on the assumption that only three language groups existed in pre-Indo-European Europe, namely Finno-Ugric, Indo-European and Basque, corresponding to three ice age refugia. Then, Finno-Ugric speakers would have been the first to settle most of Europe, and the language of the Indo-European invaders was influenced by the native Finno-Ugric population, producing the Germanic protolanguage. Wiik's theory is controversial and rejected by most other linguists.
Existing evidence of languages outside the three refugia that he proposes, (e.g. the Tyrrhenian Language Family) create a complication to Wiik's theory, meaning it relies upon an as yet undemonstrated link between each of these languages and one of the three proto-languages he proposes.
Words derived from non-Indo-European languages
Hawkins moreover asserts that more than one third of the native Germanic lexicon is of non-Indo-European origin, and again points to the hypothetical substrate language as the cause. Certain lexical fields are dominated by non-Indo-European words according to Hawkins. Seafaring terms, agricultural terms, engineering terms (construction/architecture), words about war and weapons, animal and fish names, and the names of communal and social institutions are centers of non-Indo-European words according to Hawkins. Some English language examples given by Hawkins include:Seafaring Warfare/weapons Animal/fish Communal Miscellaneous sea
Many of Hawkins's purported non-etymologies are controversial. One obvious way to refute the Germanic substrate hypothesis is to find Indo-European etymologies for the words on Hawkins's list. This process continues, but several cited as examples by Hawkins can likely be eliminated. For example, it is generally agreed that helmet represents IE *kel-, "a concealing covering". East relates to IE *aus-ro-, "dawn". Some of the words may have Indo-European derivations that are simply not well preserved in other Indo-European languages. For example, it has been suggested that wife is related to Tocharian B kwipe, "shame; vulva", from a reconstructed root *gwibh-. Other possible etymologies include:
- ebb: from *apo- "off, away"
- north: from *nr̥tro which is in turn from *ner- "under, on the left"
- south: from *sunto which is in turn from *sun-, a variant of *säwel- "the sun"
- west: from *westo which is in turn from *wes-, reduced form of *wespero "evening"
- shield: from *skel "to cut"
- stork: from *str̥g which is the zero-grade form of *ster- "stiff"
- bear: 'the brown one' (a taboo avoidance term, or taboo deformation) from *bher- 'bright, brown.'
- drink: from *dhreng-, nasalized form of *dhreg- "to draw, glide"
- groom: (as in bridegroom) from *(dh)ghm̥on which is the zero-grade suffixed form of dhghem- "earth". The word bridegroom derives from Middle English bridegome and Old English brȳdguma, a compound of brȳd 'bride' and guma 'man'. The intrusive r in Modern English bridegroom is due to contamination with the word groom (of different meaning), the origin of which is unknown.
- ship: from *skei-, a root originally meaning "to cut" referring to a dugout
- strand: from *ster-, meaning "wide, flat".
Similarly, the word "bear" may not be unique to Germanic languages. In Russian, a bear's lair is "berloga" ("the lair of 'ber'"). The current Russian word for "bear" is "medved'", "honey-eater". This suggests that an ancient Slavic word "ber" may have been replaced by a euphemism. However, Old Norse influence (the eponymous "Rus", purported founders of Russia, who might have been of Norseman Viking origins) in the development of modern Russian is to be considered as well.
Calvert Watkins's original 1969 appendix of Indo-European roots in the American Heritage Dictionary listed several roots that were believed to be unique to Germanic at that time. More recent editions have substantially reduced the number of roots claimed to be unique in Germanic.
As such, more recent treatments of Proto-Germanic tend to reject or simply omit discussion of the Germanic substrate hypothesis. Joseph B. Voyles's Early Germanic Grammar makes no mention of the hypothesis, nor do most other recent publications on the Germanic language family.
Nonetheless, the hypothesis remains popular in some circles, such as the Leiden school of historical linguistics. The first etymological dictionary of any language to take the hypothesis into its discussions systematically is the new Dutch dictionary influenced by the thinking of the Leiden group, which is currently under production: Marlies Philippa et al (ed), Etymologisch woordenboek van het Nederlands, Amsterdam University press, vol. 1 2003, remaining volumes due to appear by 2009.
- ^ Feist, Sigmund (1932). "The Origin of the Germanic Languages and the Europeanization of North Europe". Language 8: pages 245-254. doi:10.2307/408831.
- ^ Not all consider languages such as Sanskrit to be conservative in terms of case. Prokosch (1939) wrote: "...the common Indo-European element seems to predominate more definitely in the Germanic group than anywhere else."
- ^ In regards to this issue, Polomé (1990) wrote: "Assuming 'pidginization' in Proto-Germanic on account of the alleged 'loss' of a number of features reconstructed by the Neogrammarians as part of the verbal system of Proto-Indo-European (...) is a rather specious argument. ... The fairly striking structural resemblance between the verbal system of Germanic and that of Hittite rather makes one wonder whether these languages do not actually represent a more archaic structural model than the further elaborated inflectional patterns of Old Icelandic and Hellenic."
- ^ a b Kalevi Wiik, Eurooppalaisten juuret (Finnish) ("Roots of Europeans"), 2002
- ^ a b Kalevi Wiik, Suomalaisten juuret (Finnish) ("Roots of Finns"), 2004
- ^ "Kantagermaanin suomalais-ugrilainen substraatti": edelleen perusteeton hypoteesi (Finnish)
- ^ SUOMALAIS-UGRILAISTEN KIELTEN KONTAKTIEN TUTKIMUKSEN NÄKYMIÄ (Finnish)
- ^ Cornelius Hasselblatt: Wo die wahre Revolution ist (German)
- Eduard Prokosch, A Comparative Germanic Grammar. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, Linguistic Society of America, 1939 ISBN 9-991-03485-4
- John A. Hawkins, Germanic Languages, in The Major Languages of Western Europe, Bernard Comrie, ed. (Routledge, 1990) ISBN 0-415-04738-2
- Edgar C. Polomé, Types of Linguistic Evidence for Early Contact: Indo-Europeans and Non-Indo-Europeans. In: Markey-Greppin (eds.) When Worlds Collide 267-89, 1990
- Joseph B. Voyles, Early Germanic Grammar (Academic Press, 1992) ISBN 0-12-728270-X
- Robert S. P. Beekes, Comparative Indo-European Linguistics: An Introduction (John Benjamins, 1995) ISBN 1-55619-505-2
- Calvert Watkins (ed.), The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots (Houghton Mifflin, 1985) ISBN 0-395-36070-6
- Calvert Watkins (ed.), The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, second edition (Houghton Mifflin, 2000) ISBN 0-618-08250-6
- Orrin W. Robinson, Old English and its Closest Relatives: A Study of the Earliest Germanic Languages (Stanford, 1992) ISBN 0-8047-2221-8
- Kalevi Wiik, Eurooppalaisten juuret (in Finnish; "Roots of Europeans"), 2002
- Kalevi Wiik, Suomalaisten juuret (in Finnish; "Roots of Finns"), 2004
(History of the Germanic languages) Subgroups East Germanic languages · West Germanic languages · North Germanic languages · Northwest Germanic · Ingvaeonic · Anglic languagesReconstructed
languages Gothic · Old English · Middle English · Old Dutch · Middle Dutch · Old Low German · Middle Low German · Old High German · Middle High German · Old Norse · Burgundian · Lombardic · Norn · Crimean Gothic · Old Gutnish · Vandalic · Old Frisian · Proto-NorseModern
languages Afrikaans · Danish · Dutch · English · Faroese · Frisian · German · Icelandic · Norwegian · Scots · Swedish · YiddishDiachronic
features Grimm's law · Verner's law · Holtzmann's Law · Germanic substrate hypothesis · High German consonant shift · Germanic a-mutation · Germanic umlaut · Germanic spirant law · Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law · Great vowel shiftSynchronic
features Germanic verb · Germanic strong verb · Germanic weak verb · Preterite-present verb · Grammatischer Wechsel · Indo-European ablautLanguage
histories History of English · Phonological history of English · History of Scots · History of German · History of Dutch · History of Danish · History of Icelandic · History of Swedish
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