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Department of Cognitive Science

Seminar Abstract

Umlaut in the history of West Germanic with particular focus on Dutch. (CLaS-CCD Research Colloquium Series)

Speaker : Professor Paula Fikkert, Department of Dutch Language and Culture, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Date : 31st of March 2017, 12:00PM until 1:00PM
Location : Australian Hearing Hub, Level 3, Room 3.310, Macquarie University.

    Umlaut is a sound change where a vowel in the stem was modified to conform more closely to the vowel in the next syllable. In particular i-Umlaut changed back vowels into the associated fronted ones when followed by an /i/ or /j/ in the following syllable, as in German Gast [a] (sg.) – Gäste [?] (pl.). Although umlaut occurred in all West Germanic languages in varying degrees, the synchronic status of umlaut and umlauted vowels is rather different in the modern languages: front rounded vowels occur in monomorphemic words in Dutch and to a lesser extent in German, but not in English; German, and to a certain extent English use umlaut as a grammatical marking, while Dutch does not. This paper traces the morphological and phonological patterns of umlaut in the history of various West Germanic languages, with a focus on Dutch. We argue that many of the synchronic differences within the standard Germanic languages are the result of the variation in the status of the markers of various stem classes and the inflectional suffixes.

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