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Grimm’s law

Speaking in Calcutta, during the infancy of the British raj in 1786, the philologist William Jones first noted impressive similarities between Sanskrit and the classical languages of Greece and Rome (an Indian king, or raja, matches rex, his Latin counterpart). Jones’s observation led to the recognition of a great Indo-European family of languages, now spread from the British Isles and Scandinavia to India, but clearly rooted in a single, ancient origin. Jones may have marked the basic similarity, but the brothers Grimm were among the first to codify regularities of change that underpin the diversification of the rootstock into its major subgroups (Romance languages, Germanic tongues, and so on). Grimm’s law … specifies the characteristic changes in consonants between Proto–Indo-European (as retained in Latin) and the Germanic languages. Thus, for example, Latin p’s become f ’s in Germanic cognates (voiceless stops become voiceless fricatives in the jargon). [32-3]

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