Gegaderung > Old English Language

Pronouncing 's' -- difference from German


I learned German up to 'O' level (which was easy as we had a brilliant teacher) but it has left me with problems pronouncing 's' in A-S.   I can't break myself of pronouncing it 'sh' before a consonent and 'z' before a vowel.   Does anyone know when the change took place?

BTW, I am still a novice in learning A-S!

Karen Carlson:
I don't know the answer to your question.  But you'll know you've made real progress in Old English when you try to read German out loud and find yourself pronouncing the ge- prefix of the participles as ye- like in OE. ;)


Leof Jayson

To my knowledge, the pronunciations of -s- that you mention are an innovation of Modern German. Up to a certain point, this letter must have been pronounced similarly in both languages, then - I don't know exactly when, but most probably in the Middle High German period, and in the south and centre of Germany only - the evolution towards the present sounds took place. On the contrary, it didn't occur in Low Saxon (Plattdeutsch) and it occurred only partially in Dutch.


OE/ModEng: sand (with /s/) Vs. German: Sand / Dutch: zand (with /z/)

ModEng: swallow (with  /s/) / Dutch: zwaluw (with /z/) Vs. German: Schwalbe (with /sh/).

All the best

I've always pronounced the Old English initial s as /s/


and medial s as /z/


according to the standard pronunciation guide.

However, I do remember reading somewhere that there may have been more voicing going on. In Ancrene wisse or Ancrene riwle, which I believe is from Wesses, the old English frofre becomes vrovre. and in modern times, in the west country s is pronounced /z/

The s - sh and s-z mutations are associated with Verner's Law, which describes the changes from older West Germanic to High German.  My understanding is that the shift begins towards the later part of the Old English period.  I'll ask somebody on the Germanic List, and on the Lowlands List.

Knee-deep in academics those sites.  I'll probably start a fight though.



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