"Gunsel" thread: loose end

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Jan 30 05:10:42 UTC 2002

At 9:52 AM -0800 1/30/02, Peter A. McGraw wrote:
>Sorry if this reply is a bit stale by now, but I'm slowly digging
>myself out of a mountain of e-mail that has piled up over the last
>couple of weeks
>when I had no time to read it.  Just in case anybody cares:
>I-umlaut is strongest in the north of the German-speaking area and
>it weakens to the south.  The situation in the dialects is reflected
>in place names such as Innsbruck (cf. standard German Bruecke) and
>in some words in colloquial Austrian standard.  The combination of
>this with the fact that the -l diminutive is a southern phenomenon
>accounts for dialectal and colloquial Austrian forms like madl (cf.
>standard German Maedchen), 'girl'.
>("Sauberes Madl," says an Austrian officer approvingly of the main
>character's lover in J. Strauss's "Gypsy Baron.")
>So the step from a southern-derived gansl to gunsel (if the u is pronounced
>as a mid central vowel) would not be a big one.
And since the immediate source was the (cited) Yiddish form "gantzel"
(and not "gentzel"), it's plausible that the diminutive crossed the
Atlantic with a back vowel in place, before the (minor)
folk-etymologized adjustment to "gunsel" (with a wedge/carat/schwa).


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