Winter’s Law Explained

Winter’s Law was postulated by Werner Winter in 1978. It is a sound law which operates n Balto-slavic short vowels according to which they lengthen before unaspirated voiced steps, and that syllable gains rising, acute accent.

Formulation:

Werner proposed a “tentative rule”- In Baltic and Salvic language, The Proto-Indo-European sequence of short vowel plus voiced stop was reflected by lengthened vowel plus voiced stop, while short vowel plus aspirate developed into short vowel plus voiced stop.

Propositions:

  1. The original formation of winter’s law stated that the vowels regularly lengthened in front of PIE voiced stops in all environments.
  2. The word lengthened must be replaced by acute, length and timbre.
  3. Werner formed acute vowels by merging his law with long vowels of laryngeal origin.
  4. The rule only holds not only for the sequences of short vowel plus voiced stop, but also for sequences with an intervening resonant.

Criticisms:

Although the law is widely accepted, not every scholar in Balto-Slavic historical linguistics accepts winter’s law. A study of counter examples by Patri (2006) claims that there is no such law at all. According to him, exceptions to the law create a too heterogeneous and voluminous set of data to allow any phonological generalization.


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