Wiktionary:About Proto-West Germanic

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Proto-West Germanic is the ancestor of all West Germanic languages, old as well as modern. It is a descendant of Proto-Germanic. This page details various considerations to be taken into account when editing Proto-West Germanic entries.




  • Short vowels: a e i o u
  • Long vowels: ā ē ī ō ū
  • Nasal vowels: ą̄ į̄ ų̄
  • Diphthongs: ai au eu iu

The long nasal vowels result from Proto-Germanic short vowels + -nh-. Other nasal vowels, in particular in the accusative plural ending, are uncertain.

Lowering of *u to *o is shown in the environments where it occurs in all descendants. In some words, for example *fugl, the lowering is found only in the southern languages, but not in the northern languages. Sometimes the situation is the other way around, most noticeably with *sturm, which lowered in all descendants except High German. Since *u is the original vowel in these words, this is the form that gets the entry, with the southern (lowered) form treated as an alternative form. Lowering of *i to *e, likewise restricted to the southern dialects, follows the same rules.


  • Voiceless stops: k p t
  • Voiceless fricatives: f h s þ
  • Voiced obstruents: b d g
  • Sonorants: j l m n r ʀ w

The result of the gemination before *j is indicated by doubling the previous consonant, for example -nnj-. The result of gemination is unclear in the case of the Proto-Germanic labiovelars.

The outcome of Proto-Germanic *z is written with ʀ, following the traditions for Runic Norse studies. It was clearly no longer an obstruent, as it was not affected by the gemination before *j, but it was also still distinct from *r on account of dialect-specific differences.

Restrictions on semivowels:

  • Short vowel + j or w is not allowed unless followed by a vowel; > diphthong otherwise.
  • -jj- and -ww- are not allowed; > -ij- or -uw-.
  • -ji- and -wu- are not allowed after a consonant; > -i- or -u-.



When descended in the usual, linear fashion, the main "old" languages are always listed in north-to-south order, with English at the top.

  • Old English
    • Middle English
      • Scots
      • English
      • Yola
  • Old Frisian
    • Saterland Frisian
    • West Frisian
    • North Frisian
  • Old Saxon
    • Middle Low German
      • Low German
        • German Low German
          • Plautdietsch
        • Dutch Low Saxon
  • Old Dutch
    • Middle Dutch
      • Dutch
        • Afrikaans
      • Limburgish
      • West Flemish
      • Zealandic
  • Old High German
    • Middle High German
      • German
      • Rhine Franconian
        • Pennsylvania German
        • Volga German
      • Central Franconian
        • Hunsrik
        • Transylvanian Saxon
      • East Central German (Upper Saxon, Silesian German, etc.)
      • East Franconian
      • Bavarian
        • Cimbrian
        • Gottscheerish
        • Hutterisch
        • Mòcheno
      • Alemannic German
        • Swabian
          • Sathmar Swabian
        • Colonia Tovar German
      • Luxembourgish
      • Vilamovian
      • Yiddish
      • Zipser German

Please note that the Frankish language is considered an etymology-only variant of Proto West-Germanic per Wiktionary:Votes/2020-01/Make Frankish an etymology-only variant of Proto-West Germanic.