Kluge's law

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Kluge's law is a controversial Proto-Germanic sound law formulated by Friedrich Kluge. It purports to explain the origin of the Proto-Germanic long consonants *kk, *tt, and *pp (Proto-Indo-European lacked a length distinction for consonants) as originating in the assimilation of an n to a preceding voiced consonant, under the condition that the n was part of a suffix which was accented in the ancestral Proto-Indo-European (PIE). The name "Kluge's law" was coined by Frederik Kortlandt. This law is not generally accepted by historical linguists.


Kroonen (2011) renders many examples showing Kluge's law. These are often found in Proto-Germanic n-stems. Due to the nature of ablaut, many forms were later on analogized.

With traditionally voiceless stops
  • PGmc *hwitta- < *ḱwitnó- (Skt. śvítna-) "white",
  • PGmc *rikkaz (gen.sg.) < *rik-nós, whereas nom.sg. PGmc *rīhō < *réik-ō(n) "line"
With traditionally voiced stops
  • PGmc *bulkaz (gen.sg.) < *bulkkaz < *bʰl̥g-nós, whereas nom.sg. PGmc *belkō < *bʰélg-ō(n) "beam"
  • PGmc *stuttōn "to bump" < PIE *stud-néh₂-.
With traditionally voiced aspirated stops
  • PGmc *deupaz < *deuppaz < *dʰeubʰ-no- "deep"
  • PGmc *buttaz (gen.sg.) < *bʰudʰ-nós < *bʰudʰ-mn-ós, whereas nom.sg. PGmc *budmēn < *bʰudʰ-mēn "bottom".

Note that in some examples, like *bulkaz and *deupaz, the geminate simplifies, presumably because it followed a heavy syllable. However, this did not apply in every such case, as seen in the following example:

  • PGmc *hwīt-, *hwitta- < PIE *ḱwéit-, *ḱwitnó- (Skt. śvítna-) "white".
    • English and German regularized the variant with long vowel and without geminate (white; Weiss), though with the voiceless *t, a result of Kluge's law, whereas Dutch regularized the variant with short vowel and geminate (wit, witte).

Paradigmatic alternations[edit]

Kluge's law had a noticeable impact on Proto-Germanic Morphology (linguistics), as it gave rise to Consonant mutational alternation of geminated and non-geminated consonants, in both nominal and verbal paradigms. These alternations are typicaly similar to the well-known paradigmatic interchanges of consonant strength in the neighboring Finnish and other Finno-Ugric languages, known as consonant gradation. Guus Kroonen (2011) extends this name to the Proto-Germanic consonant alternations resulting from Kluge's Law as well.

n-stems PIE PGM
nominative C_́C-ō C_C-ô
genitive C_C-n-és C_CC-iz
neh2-presents PIE PGM
3p. singular C_C-néh2-ti C_CC-ōþi
3p. plural C_C-nh2-énti C_G-unanþi


The law has sparked[when?] discussions about its chronology in relation to Grimm's law and Verner's law. The problem is that the traditional ordering (1. Grimm, 2. Verner, 3. Kluge) can not account for the absence of voice in the Proto-Germanic geminates.[citation needed] It has therefore been proposed[according to whom?] to rearrange the order of events so that the Proto Germanic geminates' loss of voice may be equated with that part of Grimm's law that turns mediae into voiceless tenues. This would mean that Kluge's law happened before (or between different phases of) Grimm's law. If accepted, this has further consequences, because Verner's law must in fact precede Kluge's law, or otherwise it can not be explained why both the reflexes of PIE voiced aspirated plosives and PIE voiceless plosives underwent Kluge's law. Consequently, this would put Verner's law chronologically in the first position, followed by Kluge's and finally Grimm's law.

Under the updated view, the processes may be summarized by the following table:

Pre-Proto-Germanic -tʰnV́- -dʰnV́- -dnV́- All three sets of stops occur before accented suffixes.
Verner's law -dʰnV́- -dʰnV́- -dnV́- Voiceless stops occurring after an unaccented syllable are voiced.
Kluge's law -dːV́- -dːV́- -dːV́- Stop + *n becomes, before an accented vowel, a geminate.
Grimm's law and stress shift -tːV- -tːV- -tːV- Voiced stops are devoiced, and accent is shifted on the initial syllable.


  • Kluge, Friedrich. 1884. Die germanische consonantendehnung. Paul und Braune Beiträge zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache und Literatur (PBB), 9. S. 149-186.
  • Kortlandt, Frederik. 1991. Kluge's law and the rise of Proto-Germanic geminates. Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik, 34. S. 1-4.
  • Kroonen, Guus. 2011. The Proto-Germanic n-stems : a study in diachronic morphophonology. Amsterdam/New York.
  • Lühr, Rosemarie. 1988. Expressivität und Lautgesetz im Germanischen. Heidelberg.