The High German consonant shift and language contact

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The High German Consonant Shift, which turned PGerm *p, *t, *k into pf/ff, ts/ss, kx/xx, respectively, is one of the most heavily commented sound developments in the history of linguistics.
Almost all attempts at explaining the change have centered on language-internal mechanisms or
on dialect contact rather than on language contact between Germanic and Romance, but this
article is an exception. The most complex rule system involving the Consonant Shift is found in
the German Rhineland, where it is characterized by a striking asymmetry between the positions
in the word in which *p, *t and *k are affected. The asymmetry is matched across the linguistic
border by restrictions on the occurrence of affricates in early Gallo-Romance. It can be argued
that (1) this match implies a causal link, (2) Gallo-Romance probably is the point of origin, and
(3) the Consonant Shift in the Rhineland ultimately goes back to language shift from GalloRomance to Germanic in the early Middle Ages. The consequences for explaining the Consonant
Shift in other parts of the High German area are addressed as well.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLanguage Contact in Times of Globalization
EditorsCornelius Hasselblatt, Peter Houtzagers, Remco van Pareren
Number of pages33
ISBN (Electronic)978-94-012-0043-1
ISBN (Print)978-90-420-3343-6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011

Publication series

NameStudies in Slavic and General Linguistics
ISSN (Print)0169-0124


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