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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

228               The Loom oj Language
When we arc able to detect words of Teutonic origin in this way., we
can lighten the task of mcmoii/mg our word-list with a httle informa-
tion about the simultaneous changes of pronunciation which have
occurred since the common parent of the Teutonic family split into
three main groups—an eastern represented by Gothic, a northern or
Scandinavian represented by Old Norse, and a western represented by
Old English and Old High German, In what follows we must not
confuse sounds with their symbols The latter may be arbitrary conven-
tions peculiar to particular languagcs> or a hang-over from a period
when the pronunciation was different Thus the German W is merely
another way of writing the sound represented by our F; and the sound
we usually represent by F and sometimes by GH (e g laugfi) is either
F (as in Fiscfi) or V (as m Voter for fat her) The letter J used in English
for the peculiarly English sound in jam or Gentile stands in all other
Teutonic languages for a different sound represented by our Y myeart
Our own $3 sound m jam has no equivalent in German, Danish,
Dutch or Swedish It is confined to English m the Teutonic clan.
These different conventions of closely allied languages may be due to
the whims of scribes who originally sponsored the system of spelling
m use to-day, or, like the German W> to changes of pronunciation since
their time. If we want to detect word-equivalence on the printed page,
what is more important to know is how pronunciation of related dialects
had already diverged before writing began, or how it is reflected in
subsequent spelling reforms* For instance, the correspondence between
the Swedish words mnd^ wder*, and vattcn on the one hand and the
German words Wmdy Wetter-, and Wa^er or their English equivalents
wind9 weather^ and water on the other, is partly concealed by the fact
that Scandinavian spelling incorporates the V-shift which English has
resisted.
English has preserved two old Teutonic consonant sounds which
have scarcely left a trace in its sister Teutonic dialects other than
Icelandic. One of these is the V sound of thmy the other is the 6 sound
of then, Modem Icelandic is more conservative than English in so far
as J is never softened to 0 (p, 81) at the beginning of a word. That is
illustrated by
ICELANDIC                           ENGLISH
Jw                           there
J7C8S1                                        titUS
)>u                               thou
]?ina                            thine
)?cirra                          their