A history of the English language by Baugh, Albert Croll; Cable, Thomas

By Baugh, Albert Croll; Cable, Thomas

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In West Germanic the resulting ð became a d, and the word hundred is therefore quite regular in its correspondence with centum. The explanation was of importance in accounting for the forms of the preterite tense in many strong verbs. Thus 2 The aspirates (bh, dh, gh) became voiced fricatives (ν, ð, γ) then voiced stops (b, d, g). 3 The formulation of this explanation is known as Verner’s Law, and it was of great significance in vindicating the claim of regularity for the sound-changes that Grimm’s Law had attempted to define.

East Slavic includes three varieties. Chief of these is Russian, the language of about 175 million people. It is found throughout the north, east, and central parts of Russia, was formerly the court language, and is still the official and literary language of the country. Belorussian (White Russian) is the language of about 9 million people in Belarus and adjacent parts of Poland. Ukrainian is spoken by about 50 million people in Ukraine. Nationalist ambitions have led the Ukrainians to stress the difference between their language and Russian, a difference that, from the point of view of mutual intelligibility, causes some difficulty with the spoken language.

Latvian is the language of about two million people in Latvia. Lithuanian is spoken by about three million people in the Baltic state of Lithuania. It is important among the Indo-European languages because of its conservatism. It is sometimes said that a Lithuanian peasant can understand certain simple phrases in Sanskrit. Although the statement implies too much, Lithuanian preserves some very old features that have disappeared from practically all the other languages of the family. The similarities among the various languages of the Slavic group indicate that as late as the seventh or eighth century of our era they were practically identical or at least were united by frequent intercourse.

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