Ablaut (also Apophonie ) a change of the vowel within etymologically of related words or parts of words is called. In the case of Indo-European languages ​​, the ablaut by the conditions in the Primitive Indo-European accent can be explained. The term was coined in 1819 by Jacob Grimm introduced into linguistics to refer to the periodic change in the root vowel in the flexion of the Germanic strong verbs (sometimes used earlier similar, but not as clearly defined technical term). This ablaut goes back to the Indo-European proto-language and still shows in most Indo-European languages ​​consequence its aftermath.

A distinction is made (change of vowel length) between qualitative ablaut ( changing the vowel ) and quantitative ablaut. The name for the Ablautstufen is not uniform. In general, a distinction is made between Indo-European ablaut three stages:

  • Full level (elementary, Normal Level )
  • Lengthened grade (long step)
  • Shrinkage stage (zero stage reduction step ).

In Indo-European ablaut

According to current opinion, the most Primitive Indo-European roots contain (* dewk ' lead ' for example, * peh ₃ ' drink ') the * / e / as the root vowel. In addition, all had PIE. Roots of an initial consonant, so that, for example, would be * ed ' eat ' excluded. Ferdinand de Saussure established the laryngeal theory, the effect of laryngeals blamed in a later version that in Indo-European * next to the / e / and * / o / and * / a / created. The phonetic realization of laryngeals is still unclear.

Is this * / e / unchanged, one speaks of the full stage. If the * / e / of the Indo-European parent language was not emphasized, it apparently waned ( zero grade ). In addition to the shrinkage stage, there was the so-called long grade, down to a long * / ē /. Shrinkage and long grade is also referred to as quantitative ablaut. As a qualitative ablaut existed o - shades to * / o / and * / ō /.

The ablaut holds much promise, the verbal Ablautreihen (present - aorist - perfect) show, for example, in the PIE. Root * leykw ' leave ':

For the present the whole stage is used: at the root * leykw ' leave ' (plus a Primärsuffix ) is directly the suffix appended. The aorist its turn, requires the shrinkage level: * likw so (plus Augment and ending) the form * é likw - ó -m ' I left ' arises. The Perfect is formed by o- full- Level: * loykw so (plus reduplication and ending) the form * le- lóykw -h ₂ e ' I left ' is recognized.

This Ablautreihe is continued directly, for example in Greek: λείπω, ἔλιπον, λέλοιπα ( transcribed leípō, élipon, léloipa )

Even today, the Ablautverhältnisse in German are easily recognizable. For example, sing, sang, sung to understand this:

Sing: Full step ( the Germanic * / i / goes here on the * / e / in the Indo-European present back )

Sang: o tinting ( the * / o / from old perfect ( which was reinterpreted in the Germanic past tense as ) was to * / a /, compare eight versus Latin octo )

Sung shrinkage level ( Hi / Lo / Off syllabic * / ņ / )

Vowel gradations in the German verbs

In Germanic serves at the so-called weak verbs a dental suffix (eg -t in English, - ed in English ) to mark the past tense and participle II example from German:

In the other hand, there occurs a strong verbs Ablaut fairly regular, that is, where to change the main vowels in the conjugation. Example from German:

There are seven in the Germanic Ablautreihen within which a vowel ablautet after each fixed rule ( the original reason for this are, inter alia, the following consonants ). In German, all seven Ablautgruppen are preserved to this day, with some verbs have also changed their Ablautgruppe in the course of linguistic history, or have become weak, for example, the verb is baking in the North German today mainly weak flexed ( bake - bake - gebackt ) while in the upper German more often strong past tense and past participle ( bake - buk - baked) can be found.

Examples of verbs of each Ablautreihen:

1 of the German Ablautreihe: ei - i - ie

  • Bite - bite - bitten
  • Write - wrote - written
  • Cut - cut - cut

2 Ablautreihe the Germans: ie - o - o

  • Turn - bog - bent
  • Offer - bot - offered
  • Fly - flew - flown
  • Freeze - freezing - frozen
  • Weigh - weigh - weighed

3 Ablautreihe the Germans: e / i - a - o / u

  • Sing - sang - sung
  • Die - died - died
  • Help - helped - helped

4 Ablautreihe the Germans: e / o - a - o

  • Come - came - come
  • Take - took - taken

5 Ablautreihe the Germans: e / i - a - e

  • Read - read - read
  • Lie - lay - located
  • Sit - sat - sat

6 Ablautreihe the Germans: a - u - a

  • Wear - wore - worn
  • Dig - dug - dug

7 Ablautreihe the Germans: ei / au / ō / a / ū - i - ei / au / ō / a / ū

  • Hot - was - was told
  • Cut - cut - cut
  • Come - came - Bumped
  • Catch - caught - caught
  • Sleep - slept - slept
  • Call - called - called

When learning of the Middle High German and Old High German language of employment with the ablaut series plays a particularly important role.

This shift of vowels goes back to a Indo-European origin and is therefore, in part at the same verbs across languages ​​to observe, for example,


  • Steal - steel - stolen
  • Give - gave - given


  • Stele - stal - stolen
  • Geven - gaf - gegeven


  • Steal - stole - stolen
  • Give - gave - givenName


  • Stela - stal - stolid
  • Gefa - gaf - gefið

To observe this is the similar, but usually not exactly the same Ablautreihen system, as it came to different sound shifts. The typeface keeps older forms often remain intact, which have already changed in the spoken language.

Strictly separate from ablaut in the West and North Germanic umlaut widespread (eg German Mouse - Mouse, little mouse; driving - driving ), since this has been caused by the phonetic environment, such as by a in the following syllable standing -i/j-. He is a much more recent phenomenon than the Indo-European ablaut, which is why no systematic or historical connection with the change in the Ablautreihen exists and the umlaut rule is not expected to Ablautphänomenen.

Knowledge of the historical development of ablaut can often help to explain apparently random irregularities. For example, the verb "to be" in Latin est forms ( he / she / it is) and sunt ( they are) that are similar to the related German forms strong. The difference between singular and plural in both languages ​​can be easily explained: the urindogermanische root of both verbs is * - h1es. In the Indo-European proto-language of the stem vowel has been omitted in the plural (so-called zero level of ablaut ), which is from * h1és -ti too * h1s - for enti are led (-u - sunt in Latin by later alteration ).

Also in the word formation of the ablaut plays a role, then bind derivatives of the verb in German nouns belt and waistband. This so-called implicit derivation is today, however, no longer productive.

Vowel gradations in Sanskrit

The old grammarians of Sanskrit proceeded from the zero grade of elementary levels and described the full level as Guna ( high level ) and the lengthened grade as Vṛddhi (growth )

Sanskrit dictionaries which are usually constructed according to the roots, usually contain the zero grade of the root as an entry. In addition to the vowels a / ā, i / ī, u / ū and the diphthongs o / au and e / ai immerse the semi-vowels y and v on, also uses the Sanskrit consonants Liquide R and L, and also the nasals m and n may have vocalic function.

The Sanskrit knows 15 Ablautreihen:

Ablaut in Lithuanian

In Lithuania three Ablautreihen be distinguished, although not always all gradations occur with the words.

Lūkuriuoti " wait and see "

However, also occur so-called Ablautentgleisungen, with these are that the i- stage occurs without following liquidation or nasal.

  • Teškia Teske (" splash; beat, knock, throw " Teksti ) taškyti " splash ", Tisko ( " inject " tìkšti ), Tyska " squirts, squirt "