Grimm's Law and loanwords


  • I would like to thank Kurt Braunmüller (Hamburg), Lyle Campbell (Salt Lake City, Utah), Stephen Laker (Leiden), Robert Mailhammer (Munich), Patrizia Noel (Munich), Jens Elmegård Rasmussen (Copenhagen) and two anonymous referees for commenting on earlier versions of this paper. Special thanks go to three colleagues who, independently of each other, asked me how I viewed my theory of the Germanic consonant shifts vis-à-vis my own adverse Semitic loan etymologies, thereby eliciting the present paper as a kind of answer: Marc Pierce (University of Michigan) in an e-letter of 24 May 2005, Elisabeth Leiss (University of Munich) in an address following my lecture on Semitic influences in Greece, Rome, the Celtic Isles and Germania at the Linguistisches Kolloquium on 13 July 2005 and Santeri Palviainen (Harvard University) in an e-letter of 21 Sep. 2005. — As in previous publications I mark reconstructed forms by a raised cross (+) and incorrect forms by an asterisk (*). In cited material I respect the practice of the authors.

Institut für Deutsche Philologie
Universität München
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This article addresses the controversy about the reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European consonant inventory, namely the question of whether the traditional, Neo-Grammarian reconstruction or one of the more recent alternatives such as the Glottalic Theory is correct. This question is directly related to that of the proper formulation of Grimm's Law. In the traditional framework the Proto-Germanic voiceless plosives derive from an Indo-European series of plain voiced plosives, whereas in the alternative account they derive from some kind of voiceless plosives, e.g. voiceless glottalics. The article brings to bear on the problem a new kind of evidence: the integration of prehistoric Semitic loanwords. This evidence unambiguously supports the traditional framework, in particular a shift of voiced to voiceless plosives under Grimm's Law.