Re: Initial 's' in Brittonic

From: tgpedersen
Message: 14406
Date: 2002-08-20

--- 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-. Do similar
> exist in other IE languages?
> Yes, similar situations do exist.
> In early Modern English, the pronunciations of 'ea' and 'ee'
> However, 'steak', 'break' and 'great' are exceptions, merging
> with 'ai' and long 'a'. The 'r' in 'break' and 'great' has been
> blamed for the divergence, but it is not enough in itself -
> consider 'bream', 'breathe', 'grease' and 'greave'. It appears to
> due to dialect mixture - at one time the speech of London
merged 'ea'
> with 'ai'. I think (European) dialect mixture may explain
> such as `Ronald Reagan' - like `ai' - but `Donald Reagan' -
> like `ee' - in the same US administration.
Talking of steaks:
/eg/ and /øg/ have several pronunciations in Danish, according to
register and sociolect:
-e?G- -ø?G- : heard only from very Royal actors in old movies
-e?I- -ø?I- : high style
-aI?- -oI?- : low style
But since at least the sixties of the last century, these registers
don't function anymore (a remaining trace: overlegen /oUåle?I&n, -lai?
&n "superior"). But words have "stuck" in the "appropiate" register.

eg, bøg /e?I/, /bø?I/, "oak", "beech", (Sw /e:k/, /bø:k/) but
steg, løg /staI?/, /loI?/ "steak", "onion" (Sw /ste:k/, /lø:k/)

Oaks and beeches belong (at least in Denmark?) to the register of the
national anthem (and old-fashioned Scandinavism); no one gets poetic
about steak and onions. In other words: a system of registers or
sociolects has died and left fossilized traces as "irregular

> Regards,
> Richard.