Variation, Contact and Change
Middle English voiced fricatives and the argument from borrowing: Raymond Hickey
Raymond HickeyUniversity of Duisburg and Essen
Middle English voiced fricatives and the argument from borrowing
The Middle English period is characterised externally by contact with forms of French, earlier northern forms and later more central forms (Machan 2012). In addition, the contact with Old Norse through the Scandinavians happened not long before the coming of the French to England in the mid-eleventh century and the assimilation process of all Vikings was just completed before the beginning of the Middle English period (Lutz 2012). Changes in the lexicon of English are very obvious from the many loanwords of Scandinavian and French origin which appear in the textual record of English from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries (Baugh and Cable 1993: 163–177). However, where phonology is concerned the matter is somewhat less obvious. On the one hand there are cases of sounds which came into the language with the loan-words from French. Words like point for the /oi/ diphthong (Pyles and Algeo 1993: 148) and zeal for initial /z-/ or veal for initial /v-/ appear to document this clearly. But it is known from modern Germanic languages like German or Swedish that the intake of foreign sounds requires a nuanced and differentiated view of possible borrowing on the phonological level.
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