Why *p>*f?

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal mcv at wxs.nl
Tue Feb 2 15:46:56 UTC 1999

Larry Trask <larryt at cogs.susx.ac.uk> wrote:

>In High German, providing we follow the traditional view, and not
>Vennemann's bifurcational theory, */p/ changed to /pf/ -- an
>extraordinary development, rarely if ever seen elsewhere.

But we find this "High German" consonant shift in English as well
(e.g. Liverpudlian, which has -t > -ts, -k > -kx and -p > -pf if
I'm not mistaken).

In any case, neither the Grimm nor the High German shifts are
cases of a direct shift [p] > [(p)f].  In both cases the
precondition, which may be a necessary precondition for this
sound shift, was an aspirated pronunciation of /p/ as [ph].
The same applies to Greek (/ph/ > /f/), probably pre-Latin (*bh >
*ph > f) and Arabic (*p > f, but Proto-Semitic *p, *t, *k etc.
were probably aspirated), and in cases of /p/ > /h/ > zero like
Armenian or (probably) Celtic.

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal
mcv at wxs.nl

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