World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Osthoff's law

Article Id: WHEBN0023784144
Reproduction Date:

Title: Osthoff's law  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Hermann Osthoff, Germanic Parent Language
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Osthoff's law

Osthoff's law is an Indo-European sound law which states that long vowels shorten when followed by a resonant (PIE *m, *n, *l, *r, *y, *w), followed in turn by another consonant (i.e. in a closed syllable environment). It is named after German Indo-Europeanist Hermann Osthoff who first formulated it.

The law operated in most of the Proto-Indo-European daughter languages, with notable exception being the Indo-Iranian and Tocharian branches in which the difference between long and short PIE diphthongs was clearly preserved.


  • PIE *dyēws "skyling, sky god" > Vedic dyā́us, but Ancient Greek Ζεύς, with ordinary diphthong.
  • PIE *bʰerHǵeh₂ "birch" > PBSl. *bḗrźās (laryngeal regularly dropped and root vowel lengthened) > *béržās > Lithuanian béržas, Serbo-Croatian brȅza (by liquid metathesis)

The term Osthoff's law is usually properly applied to the described phenomenon in Ancient Greek, which itself was an independent innovation from similar developments occurring in Latin and other Indo-European languages. However, often it is used in a loose sense, as a cover term referring to all shortening of long diphthongs in closed syllables.

Osthoff's law was in some version valid for Greek, Latin, Celtic and Balto-Slavic, but not for Indo-Iranian and Tocharian. It also probably applied in Germanic, although there is very little evidence to support or refute that claim.


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.