The Evolution of Germanic Phonological Systems: Proto-German, Gothic, West Germanic, and Scandinavian

Author: Plotkin, Vulf
This work expounds a new approach to fundamental problems of phonology, based on applying principles of general systemics to linguistic exploration. The proposed approach is then applied to the historical evolution of Germanic phonological systems since the separation of Proto-Germanic from Proto-Indo-European, concluding with modern German, English, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, and Icelandic. It is demonstrated that these divergent evolutionary lines have been continuous cause-and-effect chains, and that the root causes of phonological evolution lie in the restructurings on the systemic tier of the ultimate phonological quanta.


“The author rightly recognises that the elaboration of a sound system for all the languages of the world is of little use and will by no means provide a description of the ultimate phonological units themselves. Therefore, he rather takes on the phonological system of each Germanic language individually and passes through its history using the principle of analysing its functional, structural and substance-related aspects in their mutual relationships. This combination of three factors is a new approach to the search for the driving forces of language evolution.” - Professor Hermann Bluhme, Emeritus, University of Antwerp

“Plotkin bases his theory [of phonological analysis] on the concept of kinemes, which leads him to a radical reassessment (reinterpretation) of the traditional concept of the phoneme and the whole phonological system.” - Prof. dr. hab. Albertas Steponavi?ius, Emeritus, Vilnius University

“Of particular interest, in my opinion, is Plotkin’s consistent approach to the status of the phonological constituent, which calls for its recognition as a language unit in its own right with its own properties.” - Prof. Alexander Zeleneckij, D. Sc. (Philol.), Dept. of Linguistic Theory and Germanic Studies, University of Kaluga

Table of Contents

List of Tables
Foreword by Hermann Bluhme
Part I: Phonological Systems
1. Introduction
2. Kinemes: The ultimate phonological units
3. Phonemes and syllables
4. The typology of kinemic subsystems
Part II: The evolution of Germanic phonological systems
5. On the nature of sound changes in languages
6. The dynamic of the Proto-Germanic phonological system
7. The Gothic phonological system
8. The West Germanic evolutionary lines
9. The Scandinavian evolutionary lines