02 January 2016

Germanic Wheels: Non-Linear Evolution

As we have seen, the effects of the accent shift accompanying the formation of Indo-European collectives were levelled out in Greek and Vedic. Note that such analogical regularisation happens when speakers find it difficult to make sense of the forms they are exposed to. Ancient alternations lose their productivity and become obscured by accumulated layers of sound change. If the outcome survives, it lingers on as a grammatical irregularity. If the whole speech community gets rid of it, the evidence that could be used to reconstruct the original alternation is lost. Fortunately for historical linguists, speakers are not very consistent in “repairing” the irregularities of their language. For example, in the prehistory of Greek the accent and the vocalism of the singular and the collective of ‘wheel’ were levelled out. Nevertheless, speakers didn’t mess with the inherited gender of the word: kúklos remained a masculine despite having a neuter-like plural. We can imagine that a different language could change the gender of the word but preserve clear traces of the accent alternation. And that indeed is what Germanic has done.

The best-know features distinguishing the Germanic languages from the rest of Indo-European are the consequences of two regular sound changes which operated in the common ancestor of the group (Proto-Germanic): Grimm’s Law and Verner’s Law. Grimm’s Law affected all the inherited Indo-European stops, changing their phonation type (voicing) or manner of articulation. The pre-Germanic voiceless stops *p, *t, *k, * became voiceless fricatives with the same or similar place of articulation: *f, *þ, *x, *. At roughly the same time the inherited “voiced aspirated” stops *, *, *, *gʷʰ shifted into corresponding voiced fricatives: *β, *ð, *ɣ, *ɣʷ. A little later, the third part of Grimm’s Law was enacted: the remaining inherited stops *b, *d, *g, * became devoiced, yielding Germanic *p, *t, *k, *. As a result, Proto-Germanic changed from a language with a large number of stop phonemes into a language with a rich system of fricatives.

Verner’s Law applied to non-initial voiceless fricatives not adjacent to another voiceless sound and preceded by an unaccented syllable. The fricatives affected were either those generated by Grimm’s Law, or the only fricative phoneme inherited from pre-Germanic times, *s (the Proto-Indo-European “laryngeal” fricatives had already disappeared). As a result, *f, *þ, *s, *x, *  became *β, *ð, *z, *ɣ, *ɣʷ in the appropriate environment.

From *kʷékʷlos to wheel? It wasnt that simple.

Let us see how these changes affected PIE *kʷékʷlos.

Grimm’s Law applied to both occurrences of *, changing them into *. Since neither of them was found in an environment triggering Verner’s Law, they remained unchanged till the end of Proto-Germanic. Verner’s Law would have affected the final *-s. but we can’t be sure it was there. The ‘wheel’ word is a neuter noun in Northwest Germanic. We don’t know if it survived in Gothic, the only East Germanic language known from written texts. Most of the preserved Gothic material consists of copies of one partial translation of the Bible, and the text doesn’t happen to mention wheels. It’s obvious that the shift from masculine to neuter in the singular noun took place because the plural looked neuter, but we can’t tell whether it happened in pre-Germanic, Proto-Germanic or the common ancestor of the Northwest Germanic languages. Let us therefore ignore the gendered nom.sg. ending *-s and focus on the stem *kʷékʷlo-, which was the same for neuters and masculines. In the passage from pre-Germanic to Proto-Germanic, *kʷékʷlo- > *xʷéxʷla-.[1]

What happened to the the collective *kʷəkʷláh₂? The laryngeal in the ending was lost long before Grimm’s Law, and the vowel was lengthened by compensation. It seems that a full vowel was restored early in the initial syllable on the analogy of the singular, so we may start with the form *kʷekʷlā́, serving as the plural of *kʷékʷlo- (whatever the latter’s gender). In Proto-Germanic, *kʷekʷlā́ became *xʷexʷlṓ by Grimm’s Law. Since the second * occurred in a voiced environment after an unaccented vowel, Verner’s Law applied, yielding *xʷeɣʷlṓ as the plural of *xʷéxʷla-.

A few more developments took place before the split of Proto-Germanic into the East and Northwest groups. First, Proto-Germanic gave up contrastive accent in favour of fixed initial stress. This means that although linguists can sometimes infer the original location of the word accent from the outcome of Verner’s Law, both *xʷexʷla- and *xʷeɣʷlō had predictable initial stress in late Proto-Germanic, and the speakers of the language had no means of guessing where the */*ɣʷ alternation came from. The occurrence of “non-Vernerian” and “Vernerian” variants no longer depended on stress-related factors. For historical reasons, they were found tendentially in different grammatical forms, so speakers came to regard the conditioning as morphological, not phonological. But since grammatical contrasts are in most cases sufficiently signalled by other means (e.g. the use of inflectional endings), the cost of maintaining an obscure consonantal alternation may outweigh its functional importance.

Although the Germanic languages entered the historical scene rather late (in comparison with Hittite, Greek, Vedic or even Latin), they preserved some remarkably conservative features. The accent shift distinguishing some singular thematic nouns (with stems ending in *-o-) from their plurals (original collectives) was one of them. But the establishment of an initial-stress rule sounded the death knell of the distinction. The voicing alternation in words containing medial fricatives was not enough to keep it alive. Speakers of Late Proto-Germanic eliminated most of the Vernerian alternations from the noun system, generalising one of the variants at the expense of the other. In the comparative material we can see only some scattered fossils instead of a productive pattern.

Levelling out could happen either way. Some speakers generalised the consonant of the singular (*xʷexʷla-/*xʷexʷlō ), and others that of the plural (*xʷeɣʷla-/*xʷeɣʷlō). In the Proto-Germanic speech community the basic form of the noun was effectively duplicated: it could be either *xʷexʷla- or *xʷeɣʷla-, both meaning ‘wheel’ and both occurring with the same case-endings.

Still before the breakup of Proto-Germanic, the status of labiovelar consonants became precarious. The voiced labiovelar fricative *ɣʷ was eliminated from most positions; word-medially it merged with the semivowel *w. Voiceless* lost its labial accompaniment (lip-rounding) before consonants. The result was like this: *xʷexla- ~ *xʷewla-. The correspondence between these variants was anomalous, since the normal “Vernerian” counterpart of non-labialised *x  was *ɣ, not *w. This must have caused occasional transmission errors: *xʷewla- could be misheard and misinterpreted as *xʷeɣla- (by listeners who anticipated the voiced counterpart of *x). Thus, by the end of the Proto-Germanic period three variants of the stem were in circulation: *xʷexla- ~ *xʷewla- ~ *xʷeɣla-.

The resolution of a conflict between competing synonyms doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it can take centuries unless speakers have a good reason to prefer one of the forms. In the case we are discussing, however, none of the competitors had a decisive advantage over the others, so their evolution proceeded in a “neutral” fashion. If there is no systematic bias, the relative frequencies of variants will vary randomly until the least lucky one drops out of use and is seen no more. But the three forms survived into the languages descended from Proto-Northwest Germanic before any of them reached fixation in the speech community. To be precise, we can identify reflexes of *xʷexla- and *xʷewla- in North Germanic, while all three can be found in West Germanic.

Let us now adjust the notations slightly to catch up with the phonological developments in the West Germanic languages. In their parent language, the articulation of *x was weakened in most positions, so that a glottal aspirate [h] beacame its default pronunciation, with velar or palatal fricatives remaining as positional variants determined by the context. I will therefore use the transcription *h rather than *x for this evolvoing phoneme. At that stage the surviving labiovelars were treated not as single phonemes but as sequences of two segments, *hw and *kw (*gw was at best rare; it may have become *g by that time).

We can thus assume the existence of three variants in Early Proto-West Germanic: *hwehla-, *hwewla-, and *hweɣla-. In West Germanic there was a tendency for consonants to undergo gemination (or, in plain English, doubling) when followed by *j or by one of the liquid consonants, *r or *l. Before *j the doubling was regular and affected all consonants except *z and *r (which soon merged as *r). Before *r and *l, it was sporadic and restricted to non-sonorants. Some speakers doubled the second *h of *hwehla-, so a new pronunciation,*hwehhla-, was added to the already existing pool of variants.[2]  At a later stage of Proto-West Germanic the stem dropped its final vowel in the nominative/accusative singular. The four variants competing at that time were as follows: *hwehl, *hwehhl, *hwewl, and *hweɣl.

Soon afterwards, the West Germanic-speaking Angles, Saxons and Jutes embarked on their conquest of Britain. A few centuries later Old English began to be written down regularly. Which ancestral forms survived into literary Old English? The answer is quite surprising: none had been eliminated. Descendants of all the West Germanic variants can be identified in the Old English corpus:
  • hwēol ~ hwīol < *hwehl and *hwewl (from both sources)
  • hweohhol (hweohl- when inflected) < *hwehhl
  • hweowol ~ hweowul ~ hweowel (hweowl-) < *hwewl
  • hweogul ~ hweogel (hweogl-)[3] < *hweɣl
To be sure, their relative frequency was non-uniform; hwēol was by far the most common form, followed by hweow(V)l (which was about half as frequent), with the others lagging behind; but the competition was by no means over yet.

In Middle English times (11th-15th c.) this variety was drastically reduced. The variant whẹ̄l /hweːl/ (from OE hwēol) increased its frequency at the expense of all alternative forms, ousting them almost completely.[4] The variants whewel, wheghel, and even whefyl (apparently with with /f/ from /x/, as in laughter an enough) lingered on for some time, but remained vanishingly rare and dialectally restricted. Their last remaining traces can be found in proper names, for example in the surname Whewell. You must have heard of William Whewell (1794–1866), the scholar who coined the words scientist and physicist, but you probably didn’t know his name was a fancy variant of wheel.

As you can well imagine, similarly complicated stories could be spun to present the evolution of the ‘wheel’ word and its variants in other Northwest Germanic languages. There are numerous interesting problems that I can’t discuss here for want of space. For example: what happened to Germanic *xʷexʷla- in High German? where did the odd-looking Old Frisian variants fiāl and t(h)iāl come from?  Well, I have to stop somewhere. There are other words waiting to be discussed.

[REDUPLICATION: back to the table of contents]


[1] The mergers *o, *a > *a (for short vowels) and *ō, *ā > *ō (for long vowels) are also characteristically Germanic.

[2] There was a phonetic difference between medial *-h- and *-hh- surrounded by vowels or sonorants. The former underwent gradual weakening into a half-voiced glottal glide [ɦ] and was eventually dropped in the individual histories of the West Germanic languages, while  *-hh- retained a strong velar articulation [xx] and survived much longer.

[3] OE g was still a voiced velar fricative, [ɣ], in this context.

[4] It was spelt in about twenty different ways, which however indicate more or less the same pronunciation. Rarer dialectal forms with Middle English /iː/ existed as well. The vowel of Modern English wheel /(h)wiːl/, however, comes from Middle English /eː/ via the Great Vowel Shift.


  1. gemination (or, in plain English, doubling)

    Personally, I much prefer "lengthening". There's nothing "twinned" or "doubled" about long consonants; they're just held longer, exactly like long vowels.

    There was a phonetic difference between medial *-h- and *-hh- surrounded by vowels or sonorants. The former underwent gradual weakening into a half-voiced glottal glide [ɦ] and was eventually dropped in the individual histories of the West Germanic languages

    It's still [x ~ ç] in my dialect (see below for complications). It even remains distinct from /xː/ < *k (again with complications, but I've found a minimal pair).

    To my surprise, neither Moulton (1954 – once in a while JSTOR lets me in) nor Ringe (2006) were aware of this; they inferred that *x was [x] between vowels in Proto-Germanic because it was still there (as h) in Old English and I forgot where else after several rounds of apocope left it stranded at the ends of words, but claimed this [x] hadn't survived anywhere to the present day.

    Zehe(n) "toe(s)" – [ˈt͡sɛçŋ̩]
    Truhe(n) "trunk chest(s)" – [ˈtʀʊxŋ̩]
    leihen "lend" – [ˈlɛɪ̯çŋ̩]; minimal pair with Leichen "corpses" – [ˈlɛɪ̯çːŋ̩]
    h, zähe, zäher... "tough" – [t͡sax], [ˈt͡saxɛ], [ˈt͡saxɐ]...
    h, jähe, jäher... "sudden"* – [g̊ax], [ˈg̊axɛ], [ˈg̊axɐ]...
    hoch, hohe, hoher... "high"** – [hox], [ˈhoxɛ], [ˈhoxɐ]...
    sehe, siehst, sieht "see (sg.)" – [sɪɐ̯x], [sɪɐ̯xst], [sɪɐ̯xt]***

    * The j must be Central German.
    ** An aberrant case; one would expect the predicative/adverb form to be *hoh. Given Dutch hoog, however, something strange is going on here anyway, so I'm not sure if this even counts.
    *** Other forms are not comparable because they use the other Verner variant: sehen, seht, gesehen – [sɛ̃ŋ̩], [sɛg̊t͡s], [g̊sɛ̃ŋ̩].

    zehn "ten" – [t͡sẽn(ɛ)]. I suppose that could be a borrowing from Standard German, but if so, it's a surprisingly old one. I'm not sure if the vowel would be regular for an inherited word, though.
    Weihnachten "Christmas" – too long to transcribe so late at night, but there's nothing corresponding to the h. Religious terminology (down to the famous case of Fleisch "meat in general"!) is straight from Standard German, but I once read this particular word was already borrowed from Middle High German into Slovene as vinahti, again with nothing corresponding to the first h. Too bad this word is absent from the Slovene Wikipedia article on Christmas.

    At some point between two rounds of apocope, all word-final long consonants were shortened; most cases of short final /x/ come from *k, not from *x. The next round of apocope stranded long consonants at the ends of words again. Pretty often, this means that nouns now end in a short consonant in the singular and a long one in the plural, but in some cases this has been leveled out. Two rounds of analogy must have worked on Schuh(e) "shoe(s)", which is now [ʃʊɐ̯xː] without number distinction.

    1. Thanks for sharing these examples, David; they are fascinating.

      I didn't mean to claim that the medial *-h- became a glottal glide already in PWGmc. I only indicated the general direction of its lenition in most of WGmc. Even in the separate history of (pre-)Old English this *-h- was able to cause front-vowel breaking just like any [x] in the syllable coda.

      It was no longer represented orthographically in the "classical" period of OE, but of course the oldest glossaries have those -h- spellings.

    2. ^_^

      I'm not good at making lists in my head, so expect a few more examples over time. Geschehen "happen" is conjugated like sehen, with the same Verner alternation, but of course it doesn't have a 1st or 2nd person, leaving geschieht [g̊ʃɪɐ̯xt].

    3. ** An aberrant case; one would expect the predicative/adverb form to be *hoh. Given Dutch hoog, however, something strange is going on here anyway, so I'm not sure if this even counts.

      Turns out it does: the PGmc form is reconstructed as *xauxaz, as in Chauci ~ Cauchi ~ Cauci. The economical spelling of the Dutch reflex must be unetymological, and the phonotactically strange hoch must be an interdialectal borrowing.

    4. One more: [ˈṽaxl̩n] "to fan, to flail a bit", which might form a Kluge mess with wackeln "wobble" and with English wiggle.

    5. Counterexample that I keep forgetting to add: Schuster "shoemaker" is [ˈʃʊɐ̯stɐ]. Perhaps the odd-sounding cluster [xst] was simplified long enough ago that there's no h left in the spelling?

    6. [sɛ̃ŋ̩], [sɛg̊t͡s], [g̊sɛ̃ŋ̩]

      Oops! The syllabic nasals are a copy & paste error. They would actually be regular, but they're not syllabic in this particularly common word (or in geschehen); that's why I didn't mark the position of the stress.

    7. Unsurprisingly, höhere keeps /x/ in Yiddish: העכערע in the long quotation at the end of this Wikipedia article.

    8. ...But Höhe "height", for which Ringe (2013:117) straightforwardly reconstructed Proto-West-Germanic *hauhī, is just /hɛ/. That could be an example of the word-final loss of diverse consonants (mich, dich, sich, doch, Bub, genug); so I suppose those of zäh, jäh, hoch are actually restored from the rest of the paradigm. I don't think I've encountered Höhe in dialects outside of in die Höhe /ɪntˈhɛ/, so there's no paradigm there anymore. (Die regularly becomes /t/, not /d/, behind prepositions, regardless of what follows.)

      On zehn, I should have mentioned that "-teen" has the etymologically expected /ɛ/ all the way into Austrian Standard German, but of course lacks /x/, too.

  2. What about Afro_asiatic "kwr"?
    Note chadic *kwarkwar

    1. I don't think the material presented in the database justifies such a reconstruction in the first place.

  3. WP claims that Whewell's name is pronounced /ˈhjuːəl/, which is certainly surprising even now that I know it's related to wheel. I think I've always said /ˈwiwəl/.

    1. The expected "mainstream" development in Early Modern English would have been [ˈhweʊ.əl] > [ˈhwɪʊ.əl] and then... Well, we get a phonotactic conflict. The diphthong [ɪʊ] normally developed into [juː] by prominence reversal, but [wj-] is not (and was not at the time, ca. the 16th c.) an an acceptable onset. The optimal solution was to keep the [j] and simplify the original onset by dropping the [w].

  4. The /h/ also remains though - certainly I've always heard the name pronounced as John transcribes it anyway.

    Is that something to do with the labial vowel? As with 'who', as compared to 'what', 'which', etc.?

    1. The treatment of /hw/ has varied a lot across the dialects of English. In some places it was simplified to /w/ already in Middle English, in others it's still there. It seems the loss of /w/ in the surname took place before the general simplification of /hw/, which is why the /h/ has survived (as it has in who, whom, where the /w/ disappeared before a strongly rounded vowel or rather was absorbed by it).

      In a dialect that deaspirated /hw/ before the shift of [ɪʊ] to [juː] the optimal outcome (minimising segmental changes while maximising phonotactic well-formedness) would have been something like [ˈwiː.wəl], just like John's self-reported spontaneous pronunciation.

    2. I have now noticed that I should have written "[hwj-] was not an acceptable onset". Nor was [wj-], so dropping the [h] was not a good repair strategy, but dropping the [w] was.

  5. And does the evidence point clearly to the three variants co-existing in a single Proto-Germanic, rather than in separate dialects in a phylogenetic picture along the lines Andrew Garrett has sketched out for Greek, Italic, Celtic and (I think?) Germanic - where there would be no "Proto-Germanic" as such, but rather a continuum of independent IE languages which evolved into the Germanic languages via areal convergence and the pruning of intermediate branches?

    1. I don't think it's particularly insightful to view Proto-Germanic as "a continuum of independent IE languages", but of course every living language "inhabits" a non-homogeneous population of speakers, displays a lot of synchronic variation at any point in its history, and may be subdivided into any number of regional, social and stylistic varieties. This is simply the normal mode of existence of languages. The variants I'm discussing were generated by inner Germanic processes (Grimm's and Verner's laws, some other well-known Germanic changes, plus a little analogical hybridisation).

      The fact that competing variants can survive lineage divergence, be inherited separately by each daughter language and continue their competition independently in each of them after the split is also something we should expect.

  6. I think Garrett's suggestion is quite sharply differentiated from the normal picture of a heterogeneous set of dialects that nevertheless all evolved at some point from a single post-PIE language. His argument is that in cases like Greek, there may be no mother node as such that engendered all the Greek dialects including Mycenaean yet is distinct from PIE.

    He is not quibbling with the ordinary concept of a single language as constituted by the speech of diverse people and groups - or denying that in some branches of Indo-European (like the top branch itself) such a mother node is a correct construction.

    I'm sure you've read it before, but just in case-


    James Clackson at any rate urges scholars to take it seriously, in both his book "Indo-European Linguistics" and his paper "Subgrouping in the Sabellian branch of Indo-European".


    1. I know Garrett's paper and would like to discuss his proposal in a longer blog post rather than a comment. I'll do that when I'm done with the reduplication series.

    2. I am no specialist of Greek, or of IE for that matter, but I find Garrett's argument surprising, as he only mentions phonological innovations; I don't know much about Mycenian Greek verbal morphology, but at least for instance the way the perfect has been remade in Greek (loss of the o/zero grade alternation (except for oida), spread of -ka perfects etc) is certainly pan-Greek, is too specific to have been innovated two times, and is unlikely to have spread by contact.

    3. He does talk about morphology - especially on pp. 140 and 142 of the paper I linked to above. But you're right that he focuses much more on phonology.

      One thing that bothers me - along the lines you're arguing, I think - is how he keeps saying the pan-Greek innovations are 'dangerously few', 'close to zero', etc... but I don't know if 'close' is close enough for his argument to hold. It will be interesting to hear Professor Gąsiorowski's take.

    4. In the area of phonology too common Greek innovations are quite numerous and non-trivial -- certainly nowhere "close to zero". I don't think his argument against an early dating of Grassmann's Law holds water. Before *m, the aspiration of * may have been lost long before full assimilation. My guess is that the intermediate form was *-bm-, judging from the frequent behaviour of *-k⁽ʰ⁾m- in the same position. Garrett doesn't even mention the specifically Greek changes involving the laryngeals.

      But the countless morphological and lexical innovations are unmistakable. Despite the deficiencies of the Linear B script, Chadwick and Ventris had no difficulty recognising it as an archaic form of Greek (rather than a hitherto unknown Indo-European language close to the common ancestor of the non-Anatolian part of the family).

      Even if Garret were right about everything in the article, it would only mean that Mycenaean should be classified as "para-Greek" rather than Greek in the strict sense. But this is a terminological issue only. The later Greek dialects would still form a "crown group" sharing plenty of highly specific common innovations.

    5. One thing that bothers me - along the lines you're arguing, I think - is how he keeps saying the pan-Greek innovations are 'dangerously few', 'close to zero', etc... but I don't know if 'close' is close enough for his argument to hold.

      This looks like he's trying to say "the evidence for Greek monophyly is weak, therefore Greek isn't monophyletic". That would be a logical fallacy; it would mean the branch between PIE and Proto-Greek was short, but it does not mean this branch didn't exist. To make a case for that, we'd need an alternative hypothesis that would justify interpreting the "dangerously few" innovations as coincidences or borrowings by appealing to parsimony across the totality of evidence.

      It took the biologists several decades to appreciate this. Many historical linguists still aren't there.

    6. I should point out that 'close to zero' and 'dangerously few' are my paraphrases from memory.

      I think he is saying not that the branch didn't exist, but that it was not a single branch: all the Greek dialects, including Mycaenean, share innovations; Mycaenean is most definitely Greek; but the repertoire of shared innovations can't necessarily be retraced to a single node, but rather to convergence and pruning of intermediate dialects. But I may be wrong - I find it very hard to think about these things, I need pictures!

      Of course, if indeed his interpretation of the phonological and morphological data is simply wrong, that's another matter, and I'm surprised that Clackson gives so much time to the proposal.

    7. Aaargh, the repeated mis-spelling of Mycenaean...

    8. See also this post: Chaque Réplicateur A Son Histoire, and especially the dicussion that developed in the "Comments" section.

    9. In fact, Vladimir Georgiev was the first proponenent of the so-called Mycenean Koiné, which regarded Mycenean as a mixed dialect, coming from "at least two or three Greek dialects, most likely from the proto-Arcado-Cypriot (Aeolic) and the proto-Ionic dialects". The most salient isogloss he identified was the outut of the sylabic resonants, which sometimes appear as /a/ (a(n), am, ar, al) and sometimes as /o/ (o(n), om, or, ol).

      He also coined the term "multi-layer" as regarding to Lycian, which he considered to be a mixture of two different languages, Lycian proper and Termilian.

      I've extended this methodology to the whole of IE family.

  7. Yes sorry, it was a bit off track. I re-read it recently so it was on my mind.

    1. There's nothing to be sorry for. I'm actually glad you brought it up. It is an idea worth discussing.

    2. If you ever get round to blogging again, this question of the status of mother nodes below PIE is something I'd love to hear your views on.

  8. Looking forward to reading it.

    When you start thinking about synchronic variation within languages, it's quite surprising that sound laws are as regular as they are. It's true that English is a global language. But even in my local area there's significant variation in pronunciation of 'wheel'. Ignoring speakers from other parts of the UK and beyond, and allophonic versions, I make it something like:

    [wɪjəɫ ~ wɪju ~ wɪːɫ] - "nu-RP" - what Geoff Lindsey calls Standard Southern British" - as well as some MLE speakers
    [wəju/wəjo ~ wɪːw ~ wɨw] - traditional working class North London and some MLE speakers. For Cockney the full diphthong can reach [ɐj].
    [ʍɪjəɫ ~ ʍɪjɫ ~ ʍɪːɫ] - varieties of old RP

  9. And I forgot old-RP speakers with an ordinary voiced /w/: [wɪjəɫ ~ wɪjɫ ~ wɪːɫ].

    1. [ʍɪjəɫ ~ ʍɪjɫ ~ ʍɪːɫ] - varieties of old RP

      In southern England (and in RP) this has for a long time been a hypercorrect spelling-pronunciation used by a minority of speakers "for their own private satisfaction" (to quote H. C. Wyld). In the southern dialects, the merger of /w/ and /hw/ was complete centuries ago. I suspect it was revived in "cultivated speech" mostly by 18th-c. linguistic experts like James Elphinston, who arrived from Scotland to correct the educated Londoners' pronunciation.

    2. Now you mention it, the particular lady I had in mind spent her early childhood in Scotland.

  10. Lovely! I find proper names are too often missing from etymological treatments, so I was happy to see you mention Whewell (whom I was not familiar with).

    Also, instead of fīal and t(h)īal don't you mean fiāl and t(h)iāl?

    - Olivier

    1. I do indeed (blame my Old English diacritic habits). Corrected.

    2. Why would the diacritic macron be placed over the second vowel instead of the first?

    3. It's a spelling convention for Old Frisian: is a rising diphthong mostly reflecting WGmc. *eu (and a couple of other sources), while īa is reserved for an uncontracted disyllabic sequence.