English and German are both part of the “WestGermanic Languages” branch.This might be all Greek to you, but what it meansis that these two languages are actually prettyclosely related – a bit like Queen Victoria andPrince Albert, if you like...
If English and German are closely related, we should be looking out for similarities...
For example:HandAny guesses what this could be....?
Schiff = shipDie Tür = doorNot so similar anymore...
So whats happened here?How come some words are nearly identical and others only vaguely similar?
The “High German consonant shift”or “Second Germanic consonant shift”is what happened.
Doesnt mean anything to you?Not surprising. This is pretty specialised linguisticstuff.
Nevertheless, if we have a quick look at what this “consonant shift” is about, it will help you keep an eye open for German words you might be able to understand through deduction.
So, to make a mole hill out of a mountain, this iswhat this “consonant shift” is about*:At some point between the 3rd and 5th century, theconsonants in some words of the Germanlanguage “shifted”, that is to say, changed intoother consonants.These shifts didnt happen in the Englishlanguage. This “consonant shift” is one of themajor stages where English and Germanbranched off from each other.*please keep in mind that this a very simplifiedexplanation!
For example, p in German became an f:SchiffIn English however, this shift did not take place, so the p stayed a p:Thats why we still have:ship
In German, the t became an s:wasIn English, the t stayed a t:what
And a final example, in German, the d became a t:rotTürwhich meanreddoor
hand – Handschool - Schuleship - Schiff p> fdoor - Tür d>tred – rot d>twhat – was t>s
There are plenty of words which will look similar, and now that you know what signs to look out for, you might be able to guess what some of them mean on your own!