Faroese: Where do <ggj> and <gv> come from?

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

  1. Lanmi New Member

    Serbian - Serbia
    Well, essentially what the title says. Where do the Faroese <ggj> and <gv> come from?
    The ones I mean are from words such as <nógvur> and <trúgva>, with Icelandic cognates <nógur> (?) and <trúa>, and <nýggjur> and <oyggj> (regular change of "ey > oy") with Icelandic cognates of <nýr> and <ey>.
    I'm interested in the historical aspect of it, not the synchronic - could anyone help me?
  2. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Hi Lanmi,

    What happened was that in sound environments where you had a diphthong followed by a vowel (word had to be disyllabic), if or were elements of the second part of the diphthong, then this would change to be glide-like ( -> -jj- & -> -ww-) and then strengthened to become these affricates you can see today. This happened in the 18th century and has made the declensional paradigms in Modern Faroese pronunciations phenomenally irregular. Often, there were analogies made and the original process of avoiding having this constant vowel stream then spread into forms of the word which never had this environment. So, since you've given the example of oyggj - we can use that as an example. The change developed around the plural form which would have been oyj+ar but then became oyggjar. This would have originally only existed in the plural form like this but then the whole stem was reanalysed as 'oyggj' (by taking away the plural article from the plural form of the word, people assumed you'd arrive back at the stem) and thus a new singular form was born. The same happened with kúgv.

    So, with the adjectives you have an origin created from a declension which started with a vowel (mainly plural nominative) and in the verbs you have the diphthong in the stem and the regular infinitive ending -a which triggered the process. The forms went to -ggj- (via -jj-) and the forms went to -gv- (via -ww-) (which is a really, really weird sound change). This is called skerping in Faroese ('sharpening') but it is often referred to as 'Verschärfung' (English: Holtzmann's law) which is the name of the change which happened in Proto-Germanic which did almost the same thing (strengthened double-glides into consonants). Our English word 'true' (from treowian) shows an unaffected form which in North Germanic went from triwwjaz -> tryggr (still today meaning, among other things, trusty/true).
  3. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Just a minor point here: I don't know if the vowel of Icelandic ey is more original than that of Faroese oyggj. The Norwegian cognate øy shows an umlauted vowel ø in this position (triggered by the -j- in earlier *aujo-; compare German Aue), and it seems possible that this umlauted vowel was simply unrounded to e in Icelandic and retracted to o in Faroese. It's also possible that the vowel was never umlauted in Faroese to begin with; I'm not sure what the prevailing opinion on this is.
  4. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    In Old Icelandic the pronunciation was [øyjar]. The modern pronunciation is due to mergers and processes of unrounding that give you modern [ei] (-ey-). You're right that Faroese just shortened its vowel (as a consequence of adding in the consonants). I think what was meant was more of a correlation rather than a direction of change, in what the OP said. That written -y- is the key to the umlaut though in North Germanic, and in the descendants.

    NB: the vowel in Modern Faroese is closer to [ɔ] than [o].
    You'd say the word like 'oitcher' to pronounce oyggjar.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2013
  5. Lanmi New Member

    Serbian - Serbia
    Thanks, Alxmrphi, that was good to know - I saw it had something to do with diphthongs, but you told me what the entire thing was (and I was wrong in my initial assumption anyway).
    Gavril, this dictionary I have of Old Norse, compiled by Ross Arthur, has <ey> for "island" (whence Icelandic <ey> and Faroese <oyggj>), but yeah I don't understand it really good (so, yes, "correlation" would be a better term)
  6. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Incidentally, do you know if the vowel ø was ever written out as such (using ø or the oe character) when it occurred in diphthongs (as in ey, deyja, etc)?

    I think this spelling occurred in stand-alone vowels (e.g., gørva for later gera), but I don't remember seeing any examples of it in a diphthong.
  7. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Me neither. I don't think it was ever spelt differently than -ey- actually, even though it was pronounced that way. The First Grammarian was the guy who added all the new symbols to represent vowels not captured by the Latin alphabet and I think not long after that (and his proposals weren't readily accepted at first) that soon after the unrounding took place and hence the merger. So, I'm not sure if there would have been sufficient time, given his new symbols he created for the monophthongs, for that to have been adopted, but the Latin 'e' took over the job and soon enough the vowel change happened that meant that was actually more representative. It's so hard to tease apart what spelling represented what sound along a whole process of change, with different authors using different symbols as a matter of tradition. I'll have to say I pass and can't give an answer I'm sure about for this, but as for the diphthong, I don't think so.
  8. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Moderator note: Thread moved to EHL.

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