Siebs' law

Siebs' law is a Proto-Indo-European (PIE) phonological rule named after the German linguist Theodor Siebs. According to this law, if an s-mobile is added to a root that starts with a voiced or aspirated stop, that stop is allophonically devoiced.


PIE *bʰr̥Hg- > Latin fragor,
but *s-bʰr̥Hg- > PIE *spʰr̥Hg- > Sanskrit sphūrjati.


Siebs proposed this law in the Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung auf dem Gebiete der indogermanischen Sprachen, as Anlautstudien (Berlin 1904: 37.277-324). Oswald Szemerényi has rejected this rule, explaining that it is untenable and cites the contradiction present in Avestan zdī from PIE *s-dʰi "be!" as counterproof (Szemerényi 1999: 144). However, the PIE form is more accurately reconstructed as *h₁s-dʰí from *h₁es- (so not an s-mobile) and thus Siebs' law appears to demand that the sibilant and aspirated stop are both adjacent and tautosyllabic, something which is known to only occur in word-initial position in Proto-Indo-European anyway.


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