Proto-Indo-European

Fragment of a discussion from User talk:CodeCat
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The personal pronouns have four sources. West Germanic used *iz and *hiz, Gothic used *iz, while Old Norse used a combination of *sa/þ- and *hanaz which is unattested anywhere else.

CodeCat02:55, 29 January 2013

Ok, so if you had to guess (or if you know), what would be the hypothetical reflexes of the masculine declension of *iz into Old English (and then to Modern English)?

Jackwolfroven (talk)03:06, 29 January 2013

Well if *hiz became hē, then presumably *iz would have developed into just ē?

CodeCat03:08, 29 January 2013

I was thinking the same thing, but I thought that if such forms existed side by side then they would develop phonological changes to better distinguish them than the sole presence of the *h would have.

Jackwolfroven (talk)03:11, 29 January 2013

Either that or one or the other would have fallen out of use. Which is... well, what happened. :P

CodeCat03:14, 29 January 2013

Unfortunately, yes :)
But as for the former, do you know what that process is called? I'm having trouble thinking of known examples.

Jackwolfroven (talk)03:21, 29 January 2013

I'm not sure if I know of any examples. When two words fall together and can no longer reliably distinguished, then either that single word takes on the meaning of both, or the old meaning is retained and new word is used to cover the gap. I'm not aware of a name for instances where another word was changed to make it less similar to another.

CodeCat03:28, 29 January 2013

Can you give me an example of when a new word is used to cover the gap?

Jackwolfroven (talk)03:37, 29 January 2013

An example would be when the old Latin demonstrative ille became a definite article. New words like Catalan aquest were introduced to create new demonstratives.

CodeCat03:40, 29 January 2013

I see. So, if a phonological change happened to **ē to make it dissimilar, could you guess what it potentially would become?

Jackwolfroven (talk)03:44, 29 January 2013

Phonetic changes almost never take such considerations into account. They are kind of at a lower, more basic level, and are not normally affected by the meanings of words. It does sometimes happen, though, that when sound changes make certain words too similar, a language borrows an alternative form from another dialect or even another language. they was borrowed from Old Norse in that way, to replace the original word which had become too similar to he.

CodeCat03:50, 29 January 2013

Okay. Thank you for the insight; I learned a lot.

Jackwolfroven (talk)03:52, 29 January 2013