The Germanic Consonant Shift (also known as the First Sound Shift or Grimm's Law) occurred in five steps. Step 3 is called Verner's Law. Each step was completed before the next began, so there was no overlapping or repetition of the changes.
shift is described here in articulatory terms, showing the development of
1: All aspirated voiced stops became the corresponding voiced fricatives:
2: Voiceless stops became the corresponding voiceless fricatives (except when
another voiceless fricative):
k >x(h) kW
3: Voiceless fricatives became voiced (when they were in a voiced environment
and the IndoEuropean stress was not on the preceding syllable):
s > s
STEP 4: All voiced stops became unvoiced:
5: Voiced fricatives sometimes became the corresponding voiced stops (the exact
conditions depended on the sound, the environment, and the dialect):
In this same step,
the voiced fricative z became an r-like sound that was spelled with a
distinctive letter (transliterated a) in the early runic inscriptions of North
Germanic; it later merged with the r inherited from Indo-European.
The IE obstruent system after each step in the Shift. (The labiovelars, kw, gw, gwh, have been omitted for simplicity's sake.)
|(p t k)*||(p t k)*|
|p t k||p t k||f¹ x(h)||f ¹ x(h)||f ¹ x(h)||f ¹ x(h)|
|b d g||b d g||b d g||b d g||p t k||p t k|
|bh dh gh||B D Ä||B D Ä||B D Ä||B D Ä||B D Ä|
|(B D Ä)*|
parentheses occurred in limited environments.
each of the following pairs, the first item is a reconstructed Indo-European
root and the second is a related English word. The English word may be based on
a form with affixes added to the root or may involve a change in vowel, but the
Indo-European consonants correspond regularly with those in the root of
the English word. No exceptions and no examples of Verner's Law (step 3 of the
Shift) are involved.
|*bha- 'speak'/ ban||*magh- 'can'/ (OE) magan 'may'
|*dheu- 'flow' dew|| wegh-
'go'/ (OE) weigh 'way'
|*ghans- / goose||*plou- flow
|*bend- 'protruding point' pen||*aug- 'increase' / eke|
|*de-/ to||*kel- 'cover'
|*gel- cool||*leb- / lip|
|*pan- few||*dem- 'build' timber|
|*tr- 'cross over' trough||*bhlo- bloom
|*kan- 'sing' hen||*dho- 'set, put' do|
|*angh- 'tight' anger||*turn- 'swollen' thumb
|*bher- bear||*tong- 'feel' tank|
|*koimo- home, home on the range||*pet- 'fly' feather|
|*pa- / food||*treud- 'squeeze' treat
|*swad / sweet||*bhreg- / break
|*gl- 'ball' clue||*bheid- 'split'
|*dhren- drone||*dhragh drag|
|*Iab- / lap 'lick'|| *grebh-
|pulo- 'rotten' foul||*porko- / (OE) fear
|*wadh- 'pledge'/ wed|| *kwerp- 'turn about'/ wharf
|*wab- / weep||*ghreib- grip|
In the following examples, the Indo-European stress was on some syllable other than the first; consequently Verner's Law (step 3 of the Consonant Shift) applies.
|*kaput (Goth.) haufi¹ 'head'||*sep(t)m- / (Goth.) sif(¹)un (sibun) 'seven'|
|*plotu- flood||*kluto- / (OE) hlu¹ 'loud'|
|*konk- hank||*duka- / (OE) tohian 'tow'|
|*wes- 'dwell'/ were||*sauso- 'dry' / season|
The Indo-European consonants that underwent no change in Germanic:
|*lem- 'break'/ (OE) lama 'lame' (l-m)||*newo- 'new'/ (OE) neowe 'new' (n-w)|
|*ma- 'damp'/ (OE) mo-r 'moor' (m)||*wel- 'whish' / (OE) wel 'well' (w-l)|
|*mel- 'soft' / (OE) mel-tan 'melt' (m-l)||*wen- 'strive'/
(OE) winnan 'win' (w-n)
|*mer- 'harm'/ (OE) mare 'nightmare' (m-r)||*wir- 'man'/ (OE) wer 'man' (w-r)|
|*nas- 'nose' / (OE) nosu 'nose' (n-s)||* yero- 'year' / (ModE) year (y-r)|