Ablaut is a process by which an inflected form of a word is formed by changing the vowel of the base. In the narrower sense, Ablaut refers to the system of root vowel alternations in Proto-Indo-European and its daughter languages.
in English it is possible to derive the past tense of strong verbs by substituting the base vowel by another vowel: get : got, sing :sang and fall :fell.
Ablaut in Proto-Indo-European
There existed the following variants or "grades" of ablaut:
- full grade, or "e" grade,
- full grade with ablaut, or "o" grade
- lengthened grade
- lengthened grade with ablaut
- zero grade.
The results of this alternation can be seen in the following related words of modern English (listed in the same order as the above grades): sit, sat, seat, soot, nest; and also in the English strong verb system.
The term ablaut was borrowed from German Ablaut, coinded by Jacob Grimm in the early part of the 19th century.
- Bloomfield 1933. Language, Holt, New York.
- Halle, M. & K.P. Mohanan 1985. Segmental phonology of Modern English, Linguistic Inquiry 16, pp. 57-116
- Scalise, S. 1984. Generative Morphology, Foris, Dordrecht.
- Spencer, A. 1991. Morphological Theory, Blackwell, Oxford.