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Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language
Tom McArthurTom McArthur


A term used in philology for both the diachronic shifting of vowels (also known as vowel shift) and the synchronic grading of vowels (also known as vowel gradation), especially in the indo-european languages. Vowel gradation occurs in English in the formation of some irregular noun plurals (man, men; goose, geese) and some irregular verbs (sing, sang, sung; swim, swam, swum). Compare strong verb.