The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 4/2 - Sverre Stausland Johnsen

Speaker: Sverre Stausland
Title: Vowel Weakening in Old West Saxon
Date: April 2 (Monday—note the special date and time!)
Time: 5:30
Location: 32D-831

The predecessor of the Modern English weak verbs with a past tense in -ed is the Old English second weak conjugation. In West Saxon, the main dialect of Old English, the past tense forms of these verbs exhibit both the vowel ‘a’ and ‘o’: ‘andswarade ~ andswarode, wundad ~ wundod’, corresponding to Modern English ‘answered’ and ‘wounded’. The explanation given in the grammars of Old English is that the ‘o’, which goes back to an older ‘u’, stems from the verb forms where an original *u followed in the ending. I raise an alternative hypothesis by which the ‘o’ (< ‘u’) originated in medial syllables through vowel reduction. A statistical analysis of the verb forms in the largest Old West Saxon manuscript shows that ‘o’ is significantly more common in medial syllables than in final syllables, but that there is no correlation between the distribution of ‘a’ and ‘o’ and where an original *u followed in the ending. The explanation in the grammars is therefore not supported. I suggest that the vowel has been reduced in medial syllables because vowels in medial syllables are shorter than in final syllables.

Remaining Schedule
11 Suyeon Yun
18 Giorgio Magri
25 Sameer ud Dowla Khan, Brown U

2 Rory Turnbull, Ohio State University
9 Manchester Phonology Meeting Practice Talks
16 Manchester Phonology Meeting Practice Talks