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The Power of Cognates, Part 6: High German Consonant Shift /θ/ (th) -> d

Many native German speakers struggle to pronounce words like think, that, thin, thick because their own language doesn’t have the “th”, i.e. the dental fricative that we create by placing our tongue under our front teeth while blowing out air. As it turns out, the ancestor of Modern High German, Old High German had this sound as part of its repertoire until about the 9th or 10th century AD. The shift from “th” to plosive “d” makes it one of the most recent and best attested sound changes of the High German Consonant Shift. Unlike previous changes, this one made its way into Dutch and Low German as well.  

It caused early Old High German verbs like thenkian, thankon, to become denken and danken (English: think and thank).  

Armed with this information it might be easier to spot the similarities between Bad and bath,  Bruder and brother, dann and then, das and that, Dorn and thorn, Erde and earth, Feder and feather, Leder and leather, Pfad and path, Schmied and smith.

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