German -er (nom. sg. ending)

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Gavril, Feb 6, 2013.

  1. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Hello,

    What is thought to be the origin of the German ending -er seen in the strong masculine nominative singular of adjectives? (E.g., ein kurzer Mann "a short man", ein kleiner Fuss "a small foot", etc.)

    My understanding is that this is the common Germanic nominative masculine singular ending, as also seen in modern-day Icelandic (stuttur maður, "a short man", etc.), but I'm not sure about this.

    Thanks
     
  2. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Yes, OHG -er, ON -r and Gothic -s are thought to be reflexes of the PGerm. suffix *-az (z>s, z>r; ->Grammatischer Wechsel; can be observed in English e.g. comparing was and were).

    The exception is the North Sea Germanic (Old Saxon, OE and Old Frisian) ending . It may be interesting to note that from the earliest attestations of OHG until early ModHG -er/-es and existed side by side in masculine/neuter. In late Modern German this survived only in set phrases like gut-Ø Ding will Weile haben.
     

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