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Germanic Parent Language

Germanic Parent Language

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Germanic Parent Language (GPL) is a term used in historical linguistics
Historical linguistics
Historical linguistics is the study of language change. It has five main concerns:* to describe and account for observed changes in particular languages...

 to describe the chain of reconstructed languages in the Germanic group
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

 referred to as Pre-Germanic Indo-European (PreGmc), Early Proto-Germanic
Proto-Germanic language
Proto-Germanic , or Common Germanic, as it is sometimes known, is the unattested, reconstructed proto-language of all the Germanic languages, such as modern English, Frisian, Dutch, Afrikaans, German, Luxembourgish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Faroese, and Swedish.The Proto-Germanic language is...

 (EPGmc)
, and Late Proto-Germanic (LPGmc). It is intended to cover the time of the 2nd and 1st millennia BC. As an identifiable neologism, the term appears to have been first used by Frans Van Coetsem
Frans Van Coetsem
Frans Van Coetsem was a Belgian linguist. After an academic career in Flanders and the Netherlands he was appointed professor at Cornell University in 1968, and consequently he emigrated to the USA, where, after a few years, he chose to become a naturalized American citizen.-Life:Frans Van...

 in 1994. It also makes appearances in the works of Elzbieta Adamczyk, Jonathan Slocum, and Winfred P. Lehmann
Winfred P. Lehmann
Winfred P. Lehmann was an American linguist noted for his work in historical linguistics, particularly Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Germanic, as well as for pioneering work in machine translation.-Biography:After receiving B.A. in Humanities at the Northwestern College in Watertown in 1936, he...

.

Absolute chronology


Several historical linguists have pointed towards the apparent material and social continuity connecting the cultures of the Nordic Bronze Age
Nordic Bronze Age
The Nordic Bronze Age is the name given by Oscar Montelius to a period and a Bronze Age culture in Scandinavian pre-history, c. 1700-500 BC, with sites that reached as far east as Estonia. Succeeding the Late Neolithic culture, its ethnic and linguistic affinities are unknown in the absence of...

 (1800–500 BCE) and the Pre-Roman Iron Age
Pre-Roman Iron Age
The Pre-Roman Iron Age of Northern Europe designates the earliest part of the Iron Age in Scandinavia, northern Germany, and the Netherlands north of the Rhine River. These regions feature many extensive archaeological excavation sites, which have yielded a wealth of artifacts...

 (500 BCE–1 CE) as having implications in regard to the stability and later development of the Germanic language group.
The emerging consensus among scholars is that the First Germanic Sound Shift
Grimm's law
Grimm's law , named for Jacob Grimm, is a set of statements describing the inherited Proto-Indo-European stops as they developed in Proto-Germanic in the 1st millennium BC...

—long considered to be the defining mark in the development of Proto-Germanic
Proto-Germanic language
Proto-Germanic , or Common Germanic, as it is sometimes known, is the unattested, reconstructed proto-language of all the Germanic languages, such as modern English, Frisian, Dutch, Afrikaans, German, Luxembourgish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Faroese, and Swedish.The Proto-Germanic language is...

—happened as late as 500 BCE.

Research conducted over the past few decades displays a notable interest in exploring the linguistic and sociohistorical conditions under which this sound shift occurred, and often formulates theories and makes reconstructive efforts regarding the periods immediately preceding Proto-Germanic as traditionally characterised.
The notion of the Germanic Parent Language is thus used to encompass both the Pre-Proto-Germanic stage of development preceding the First Germanic Sound Shift (i.e. that assumed to be contemporary with the Nordic Bronze Age) and that stage traditionally identified as Proto-Germanic up to the beginning of the Common Era
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

.

Theoretical boundaries


The upper boundary assigned to the Germanic Parent Language is described as "dialectical Indo-European". In the works of both Van Coetsem and Voyles, attempts are made to reconstruct aspects of this stage of the language using a process the former refers to as inverted reconstruction; i.e. one using the data made available through the attested daughter languages in light of and at times in preference to the results of the comparative reconstruction undertaken to arrive at Proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European language
The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

. The results are not strictly standard in terms of traditional Proto-Indo-European reconstruction, but they are instead presented as characteristic of the incipient predecessor to Early Proto-Germanic, hence the terms Pre-Germanic Indo-European (Voyles) or Pre-Proto-Germanic (Van Coetsem) for this stage.

The lower boundary of the Germanic Parent Language has been tentatively identified as that point in the development of the language which preceded permanent fragmentation and which produced the Germanic daughter languages.

Phonological boundaries


In his work entitled The Vocalism of the Germanic Parent Language, Frans Van Coetsem lays out a broad set of phonological characteristics which he considers to be representative of the various stages encompassed by the Germanic Parent Language:
  • Pre-Proto-Germanic
    Proto-Germanic language
    Proto-Germanic , or Common Germanic, as it is sometimes known, is the unattested, reconstructed proto-language of all the Germanic languages, such as modern English, Frisian, Dutch, Afrikaans, German, Luxembourgish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Faroese, and Swedish.The Proto-Germanic language is...

    : Mora
    Mora (linguistics)
    Mora is a unit in phonology that determines syllable weight, which in some languages determines stress or timing. As with many technical linguistic terms, the definition of a mora varies. Perhaps the most succinct working definition was provided by the American linguist James D...

     reduction.
  • Early Proto-Germanic: (1) ā/ă, ō/ŏ mergers; (2) dissolution of the syllabic liquids and nasals; (3) the initiation of fricativization or the First Consonant Shift
    Grimm's law
    Grimm's law , named for Jacob Grimm, is a set of statements describing the inherited Proto-Indo-European stops as they developed in Proto-Germanic in the 1st millennium BC...

     (also known as Grimm's Law or Erste Lautverschiebung)
  • Late Proto-Germanic: (1) accent modification in two stages: (a) intensification in dominance followed by Verner's law
    Verner's law
    Verner's law, stated by Karl Verner in 1875, describes a historical sound change in the Proto-Germanic language whereby voiceless fricatives *f, *þ, *s, *h, *hʷ, when immediately following an unstressed syllable in the same word, underwent voicing and became respectively the fricatives *b, *d, *z,...

    ; (b) fixation on the first syllable: umlaut- and accent-conditioned raising and lowering changes; reduction in non-accented position; (3) /s/ → /z/


Koivulehto (2002) further defines Pre-Germanic as "[the] language stage that followed the depalatalization of IE palatals (e.g. IE > PreGmc k) but preceded the Gmc sound shift "Lautverschiebung", "Grimm’s Law", (e.g. k > PGmc χ)." Other rules thought to have affected the Pre-Germanic stage include Cowgill’s Law, which describes the process of laryngeal loss
Laryngeal theory
The laryngeal theory is a generally accepted theory of historical linguistics which proposes the existence of one, or a set of three , consonant sounds termed "laryngeals" that appear in most current reconstructions of the Proto-Indo-European language...

 known to have occurred in most post-PIE (i.e. IE) dialects, and Osthoff's law
Osthoff's law
Osthoff's law is an Indo-European sound law which states that long vowels shorten when followed by a resonant , followed in turn by another consonant...

, which describes rules for the shortening of long vowels, known to have applied in western dialects such as Greek
Proto-Greek language
The Proto-Greek language is the assumed last common ancestor of all known varieties of Greek, including Mycenaean, the classical Greek dialects , and ultimately Koine, Byzantine and modern Greek...

, Latin
Italic languages
The Italic subfamily is a member of the Indo-European language family. It includes the Romance languages derived from Latin , and a number of extinct languages of the Italian Peninsula, including Umbrian, Oscan, Faliscan, and Latin.In the past various definitions of "Italic" have prevailed...

, and Celtic
Proto-Celtic language
The Proto-Celtic language, also called Common Celtic, is the reconstructed ancestor language of all the known Celtic languages. Its lexis can be confidently reconstructed on the basis of the comparative method of historical linguistics...

, but not in Tocharian
Tocharian languages
Tocharian or Tokharian is an extinct branch of the Indo-European language family. The name is taken from the people known to the Greeks as the Tocharians . These are sometimes identified with the Yuezhi and the Kushans. The term Tokharistan usually refers to 1st millennium Bactria, which the...

 or Indo-Iranian
Proto-Indo-Iranian language
Proto-Indo-Iranian is the reconstructed proto-language of the Indo-Iranian branch of Indo-European. Its speakers, the hypothetical Proto-Indo-Iranians, are assumed to have lived in the late 3rd millennium BC, and are usually connected with the early Andronovo archaeological...

. Ringe (2006) suggests that it is likely that Osthoff’s Law also applied to Germanic, and that the loss of laryngeals such as h2 must have preceded the application of Grimm’s Law.

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