Talk:I-mutation

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Name change[edit]

The title should have a lower-case m in keeping with Wikipedia capitalization policy. But I-mutation already exists, as an inaccurate substub of an article that should be deleted to make room for the far superior text at I-Mutation. --Angr/comhrá 06:58, 29 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I think in this case, I-mutation would need to go through VfD before I, at least, would feel comfortable deleting it, since it's not a candidate for speedy deletion. Or, you could "merge" the articles (say put what I-mutation says somewhere in the article, if only to point out that it's inaccurate), then make it a redirect to this page. Then it could be deleted. Lachatdelarue (talk) 14:55, 29 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Good idea. That's what I'll do. --Angr/comhrá 16:05, 29 Apr 2005 (UTC)
All done. Lachatdelarue (talk) 22:14, 29 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Thanks! I removed the requested move tag. --Angr/comhrá 08:07, 30 Apr 2005 (UTC)


I wonder if it would not be better to name this "i-mutation in Germanic languages" or similar. On past experience, if this is not specified, people will come along complaining that the article is POV towards Germanic, and will expand with data from Japanese, Hebrew etc to the point where the whole piece loses its focus. I think this article would benefit from staying focussed on Germanics, so I would recommend pre-empting that; after all, i-mutation in other languages is important enough to have its own article. --Doric Loon 17:28, 30 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Relation to Umlaut article[edit]

First off, let me say that Benwing's work here is great. This goes into much more detail than anything we had before, and once it has been completed, it will be a valuable article. HOWEVER, as I have said to Benwing on his own talkpage, we have a slight problem of overlap, because there is already an article on umlaut, which is synonymous with "Germanic i-mutation". Now I know that some linguists have used the word "umlaut" more generally as a synonym for vowel harmony, and Benwing seems to have reconciled the problem in his own mind by understanding the word that way. But that is neither the original meaning of Umlaut nor the most common use in modern linguistics; we had a debate about this on the Umlaut talk-page and several user talk-pages some time ago, and seemed to have a consensus that we would use such terms in their more precise meanings and simply acknowledge the possibility of fuzzier usage in passing. That is what the umlaut article does. Which brings us to the problem: we have two articles on synonymous terms saying much the same thing. What are we going to do about that? I can see two possibilities, but we need to talk about them.

  1. We can keep both articles and make one more specialised than the other. I think the umlaut article (at present) does a better job of explaining the phenomenon, but the i-mutation article (at any rate once it has been completed as planned) goes into much more detail about exactly when and where and what and how. Maybe a difference of emphasis can be developed usefully. Possibly the present umlaut article focusses mainly on modern languages (with an explanation of their history) whereas the present i-mutation article focusses on historical developments; maybe on that basis there is a place for both. Then we will just have to think about how to cross-reference most helpfully.
  2. There was talk some time ago about splitting the umlaut article in two. (At present it falls into two halves which relate to one another but could stand separately.) At that time I resisted splitting it, because it was not too long and it seemed useful to show the relationship between the vowel harmony and the diacritic. But that is still an option. One possibility, then, is to disambiguate umlaut into umlaut (diacritic) and umlaut (i-mutation) and then merge the contents of Benwing's i-mutation article into the second of these. That would leave i-mutation as a venue for discussions of broader contexts outside Germanic (see my comments on the re-naming section above).

My own vote would be for something along the lines of this second option, thought the first would be less messy - the umlaut article has quite a neat balance as it is. --Doric Loon 18:13, 30 Apr 2005 (UTC)


I've always understood the difference between umlaut and vowel harmony to be one of direction: umlaut is a vowel on the right-hand side affecting a vowel to its left, while vowel harmony is a vowel on the left-hand side affecting a vowel to its right. It may not be terribly sensible to make this distinction, but it's no sillier than the distinction between hurricanes and typhoons. However, if we want to make this article into an article on the right-to-left equivalent of vowel harmony, it's important to remember that that /i/ and /j/ are not the only vocoids that can trigger it. Old Norse and Icelandic also have u-umlaut, and both Proto-Germanic and Proto-Celtic have lowering of high vowels before /a/, which could be considered a-umlaut (though I think that term isn't often used). I would also like to include the "vowel mutations" of Middle Welsh, which are basically i-umlaut as well (archaf vs. erchi vs. eirch), so that this article isn't too Germanic-specific. --Angr/comhrá 19:56, 30 Apr 2005 (UTC)


Vowel harmony is really any situation where one vowel affects another by some process of assimilation. It's the general term. You are right: Umlaut is always right-to-left, and properly Umlaut is even more specific - it is a right-to-left assimilation in a Germanic language triggered by /i/, /ī/ or /j/. Broader meanings of the word "umlaut" are mentioned in the umlaut article, but (you are right again) you will seldom hear the term "a-umlaut" nowadays; it is generally called a-mutation. Remember we already have an article on vowel harmony, and that is the place to put brief references to sundry vowel mutations in Middle Welsh etc, though better still would be to start a dedicated article on them. But you'd better check first what has already been done on Celtic philology: this is part of the problem - people are starting new articles without looking to see what is already there! Coming back to the question in hand, Angr, what do YOU think we should do with this article? --Doric Loon 11:55, 1 May 2005 (UTC)


I disagree that vowel harmony is the place to discuss i-mutation in Welsh. I see no reason why this article, or umlaut and a-mutation for that matter, should be restricted to Germanic. I think this article should be about any fronting/raising process triggered by a following high front vocoid, regardless of what language it's attested in. Likewise a-mutation shouldn't be restricted to Germanic but should include lowering caused by a following /a/ in other languages as well (again an example from Welsh: gwyn 'white (masc.)' < *windos vs. gwen 'white (fem.)' < *windā). Umlaut should mostly be about the written sign, with an indication that it also the name for processes like i-mutation and a-mutation. Vowel harmony should be about the left-to-right processes typical of Uralic and Altaic languages. That's what I think. --Angr/comhrá 12:18, 1 May 2005 (UTC)


Obviously, there are two different kinds of article possible on this kind of phenomenon: a broad one describing how the mutation CAN work and showing examples from all the languages of the world, or a narrow one describing how the mutation DID work in one language group. There is a need for both - we have precidents throughout Wikipedia for a mixture of general and specialised articles, so I don't think that is controversial. The question is just which heading to use for what. But the kind of detail which Benwing and I want on Germanic cannot belong on the same page as general comparisons about Welsh and Uralic.
You are raising questions here about languages I know nothing about, so I am not going to be pushy about the choices we make for them. I would have thought, though, that i-mutation or a-mutation would be the place for general cross-language discussions (is that what you already said?), whereas umlaut (possibly umlaut (Germanic i-mutation) if we decide to split it) and Germanic a-mutation would be the place for the detailed history of what is happening in Germanic languages.
Can you give me sources for "vowel harmony" being used technically to specify left-to-right? If you so I can live with that. The only think I will be a little bit bolshy about is the meaning of "umlaut", because that IS my area of competence. --Doric Loon 13:50, 1 May 2005 (UTC)
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If we use i-mutation for general languages, the majority of the content should be moved to Germanic umlaut and summarized. Then I think separate "I-mutation in X language" or "X language family" sections should be written or created with an {{expand-section}} template. ᛭ LokiClock (talk) 03:00, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

OK, I've just found other references to "vowel harmony" as "progressive" vowel assimilation. ("Progressive" is a better term than "left-to-right" since it is not biased against Semitic languages which go the opposite way across the page!) I will therefore accept your point about "vowel harmony". "Metaphony" would be the general word, and should perhaps be the name of an overview article from which all these other pieces with their varying degrees of specialisation (to a particular type, to a particular language) should be cross-referenced. Are you comfortable with that? --Doric Loon 14:07, 1 May 2005 (UTC)

Yeah, that sounds fine, except I still don't think articles on linguistic phenomena should be limited to particular languages or language families. (There used to be an article Initial consonant mutation which was just about the phenomenon in Celtic; I renamed it Consonant mutation and added information from lots of other languages. I'd want all the articles about metaphony to be equally broad in scope w.r.t. languages discussed.) --Angr/comhrá 16:34, 1 May 2005 (UTC)

Compare it with politics. We have articles on constitution, prime minister, cabinet etc, which talk about a concept as it appears in lots of countries. And then we have articles on American constitution, British prime minister etc, which give a very valuable depth that the general articles just can't. I can see the broad cross-language comparisons are what interest you most, which is fine. We can do both. --Doric Loon 18:22, 1 May 2005 (UTC)

Let's write the general articles first and see what happens. If it gets too long, then we can break sections off into I-mutation in Germanic languages and/or I-mutation in Celtic languages, or whatever. But until that happens, let's allow this article to discuss the phenomenon in any language where it's attested. --Angr/comhrá 18:33, 1 May 2005 (UTC)

Gothic and i-mutation[edit]

The article says:

"This process took place separately in the various Germanic languages starting around 450 or 500 AD in the North Sea area, and affected all of the early languages except for Gothic."

How does one know that Gothic never had i-mutations? The records we have of Gothic are from the period prior to "around 450 or 500 AD" (when i-mutation began in other Germanic dialect) so the fact that Gothic had no i-mutation doesn't prove anything. No other dialect of Germanic had i-mutation either. Jens Persson (213.67.64.22 01:30, 17 December 2006 (UTC))

There are also (Crimean) Gothic records from Early Modern times. --Doric Loon 10:56, 19 December 2006 (UTC)