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Topic 51: English historical linguistics

  1. The Indo-European languages
    Proofs of relationship; branches; some characteristic vocalic and consonantal changes (e.g., Grimm's Law, mergers in the vocalic system, Verner's Law); PIE features surviving in PdE
  2. The Germanic languages
    Branches (eastern, western, northern); Gothic; German: high and low (Grimm's Second Law); Scandinavian
  3. Vowels and stress from OE to PdE
    Umlaut; the Great Vowel Shift (push or drag chain, affected class of vowels), its effects on PdE morphology; pre-R changes (breaking, broadening); Germanic stress: place of stress (nouns vs. verbs) and its effects on vowels (full vs. reduced); Romance stress
  4. Consonants from OE to PdE
    The consonant system of OE/ME/PdE; allophones vs. phonemes (grammaticalisation); voice; distribution of fricatives and its relevance to PdE; the pronunciation of `gh'; palatalisation; the velar nasal
  5. The nominal categories (nouns and adjectives) from OE to PdE
    weak and strong nouns (basis of classification and its reflexes in PdE; definite (weak) and indefinite (strong) adjectival declension; inflectional vs. analytical tendencies (prepositional constructions); today`s irregular plurals; the genitive; pluralia tantum
  6. The verbal category from OE to PdE
    Weak vs. strong verbs: dental suffix vs. ablaut series; was/were distinction; third person ending; suppletivism; today`s irregular verbs; emergence of periphrastic verb forms and tenses
  7. The pronoun system from OE to PdE
    The OE case system and its PdE reflexes: him/her/me; PdE nominative vs. non-nominative cases; the use of prepositions; the birth of the definite article; gender (grammatical vs. natural); the you--thou problem; Scandinavian influence on the pronoun system (they); grammaticalisation (e.g., my/mine);
  8. The history of English spelling
    Runic writing; history of today`s letter-to-sound-rules; the love words; the conservatism of spelling (e.g., retention of `gh', the meat--meet merger, the first--nurse--merger)
  9. The history of the English word-order
    Main vs. subordinate clauses; English as a V2 language; subject-verb inversion vs. fronting (this school you will never leave vs. *this school will you never leave); do-support; order of constituents (auxiliary vs. main verbs, preposition + N, adjective + noun)
  10. Semantic and stylistic change
    Slang and standardisation; amelioration and pejoration; narrowing and extension; homonyms vs. homophones vs. synonyms (basis of classification); Biblical translation as an example for such changes
  11. English word formation
    Derivation and inflexion; bound vs. free forms; stem, marker (extensions), root (change in word formation processes: root vs. stem based); change of lexical words to suffixes (e.g., -ly, -dom, -ship); augments (drama-t-ic)
  12. Loanwords in English and their chronology
    (vulgar/mediaeval) Latin; coastal (AN) French vs. Parisian (central) Old French; MoFrench vs. Latin (chandelier vs. candle); Scandinavian (skirt vs. shirt); popular loans vs. learned loans vs. inherited (native) forms; chronology of sound changes (both English and that of source languages) as applied to loanwords (e.g., chief vs. chef)


last edited on Tue Dec 31 23:00:00 CET 2002, by