Dental fricatives and stops in Germanic

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This paper presents evidence for four important arguments: (1) Particular conditions in the development of the English language have allowed phonetic variation in the dental fricative to persist with few phonemic developments over the course of time. (2) The range of variation in production of the modern American English dental fricative reflects the range of actual outcomes in the other Germanic languages developing out of Proto-Germanic. (3) Relying on the uniformitarian principle, that the kinds of processes we can observe in the present are the same as processes that shaped languages in the past, this paper illustrates that the kinds of variation that are present in the Modern American English dental fricative are the same kinds of variation that can be posited to have existed in the dental fricative in Proto-Germanic. (4) These three points support, and are supported by, the theory, derived from multiple branches of linguistics, that sound change is the result of different phonemic interpretations and generalizations derived from ongoing variation. The spread of these generalizations is what gives us measurable and widespread sound changes such as those that have produced the various modern instantiations of the dental fricative.


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