Morphological Change

D. Gary Miller

in Language Change and Linguistic Theory, Volume II

Published in print August 2010 | ISBN: 9780199583430
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595288 | DOI:
Morphological Change

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The origin and diffusion of two English suffixes are treated. The first is 3sg. ‐s, which is not of Scandinavian origin but resulted from generalization of ‐s from is to has to other irregular monosyllabic verbs, to which ‐s was restricted in Early Modern English, and finally to regular verbs. The second study is deadjectival ‐en, which expanded under Norse contact in northeast England. Novel English verbs were created by semantic analogy to the Nordic models, which imposed a set of constraints: monosyllabic base, trochaic foot structure, and root‐final obstruent. A brief comparison with the spread of other affixes reveals that derivational and inflectional formatives spread by lexical diffusion. General utility and extralinguistic factors determine the rapidity of the spread and the degree of productivity.

Keywords: English suffixes; semantic analogy; root‐final obstruent; lexical diffusion

Chapter.  7983 words. 

Subjects: Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

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