Article

Middle English phonology in the digital age: What written corpora can tell us about sound change

Nikolaus Ritt

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of English

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199922765
Published online November 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199922765.013.0007

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Middle English phonology in the digital age: What written corpora can tell us about sound change

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  • Linguistics
  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics
  • Phonetics and Phonology

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Digital corpora have revolutionized research on historical morpho-syntax and lexicology, but so far have had little impact on the study of phonological change. This can be explained in part by the fact that the relationship between spelling and phonology is not very straightforward. Focusing on Middle English, this article shows how corpus data can be exploited to investigate historical phonology: from the distribution and frequencies of morphemes, conclusions can be drawn about phonological systems and the changes they underwent even without directly investigating phonemes or larger phonotactic configurations. Two cases are presented to demonstrate the line of reasoning. The first example concerns stress assignment in English nouns and verbs, while the second concerns the long term implementation of a specific sound change.

Keywords: digital corpora; spelling; phonology; phonological change; sound change; verbs; nouns; Middle English; phonemes; technology; linguistics

Article.  1996 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Historical and Diachronic Linguistics ; Phonetics and Phonology

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