Re: Initial 's' in Brittonic

From: tgpedersen
Message: 14344
Date: 2002-08-16

--- In cybalist@..., "richardwordingham" <richard.wordingham@...>
> --- In cybalist@..., guto rhys <gutorhys@...> wrote:
> > Can anyone explain why Brittonic retained initial 's' in some
> while mutating it to 'h-' in others. I am aware that this change is
> dated to the Roman occupation in Britain as words borrowed from
> retain the 's' (`'saeth' - arrow, 'sych' - dry etc.). It seems not
> be related to the nature of the following vowel as we have 'saith' -

> seven < *se- and 'hy' strong/proud/rude < seg

> In Modern German, quite a few Low German forms (as diagnosed by
> initial consonant) have displaced the inherited High German forms.
> Unfortunately, I can't think of any examples at the moment.
Not necessarily the initial consonant, and not displaced, rather
supplemented. Examples: Waffe "weapon" - Wappen "coat of arms",
Scharlach "scarlet cloth" - Laken "sheet"
> In Latin, intervocal PIE bh and dh did not always yield /b/ or /d/;
> there are forms with f instead. An example is 'rufus' and 'ruber',
> both meaning 'red' and deriving from the PIE stem h1reudH. (VCr
> counts as intervocalic - see
> .) A closely
> related Italic dialect (Faliscan?) always had /f/ between vowels.
> Brythonic had two parallel changes: s- > h-, and st- > s-. Thus,
> some dialects did not lenite s- to h-, they could lend forms
> retaining s- to dialects that had lenited them. The recipient
> dialect could interpret the s- as being the sound it had developed
> from st-. Having said this, I wonder if there may be a reason for
> preferring saith to *haith for 'seven' if the choice were made
> available by dialect mixture.
It occurred to me that Halle is known also as Halle on the Saale. The
s- of that river's name would have had to be in place when the Celts
arrived to mine salt there, even in the case that name has nothing to
do with salt.
> Is there any mileage in this suggestion of dissimilation? I have
> very little data on Welsh, so I cannot test this hypothesis
> By the nature of the mechanism, it may be that many exceptions have
> common pattern that is shared with non-exceptions, like `break'
> and `great' in English. There may also be residual exceptions,
> like `steak'.
> The dialect mixture argument would be much stronger if we could
> there were dialects that did not undergo the change. However, a
> conservative dialect might function as a non-leniting dialect
> it ultimately underwent the change. A poor example that comes to
> mind is the fate of Germanic sk- in English. Old English softened
> (ultimately yielding Modern English sh-), but then hardened word
> forms were re-introduced from or under the influence of Viking
> settlers, yielding word such as `skin', `skirt' and the myriad
> in `scr-'. However, Scandinavian (or at least, Norwegian and
> Swedish) have now softened sk- before front vowels. I am uncertain
> of the validity of this example; the similar Scandinavian and
> sound changes may be unrelated.
Let's try to think this through. In the North of England there would
have been Norse (or Old Danish) speaking villages (-by) and
AngloSaxon speaking villages (-ton). Giving the nature of village
life people stayed in the village and met otherwise-speaking people
only when buying and selling, ie on the market, where they would also
meet the Low-German speaking Hansa wool-buyers. In that situation,
you get a trade language not unlike that Danes and Swedes will use
shopping in each other's countries. I think the wholesale assignment
of sk- to Norse and sh- to Saxon is partly a lingustic convention. I
noted that Krivichian, presumably the Slavic languaguage Scandinavian
and Hansa traders would have used, has both <s^iling> and <skiling>.

> Regards,
> Richard.