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Prosody and prosodically motivated processes from Germanic to Middle English

Yookang Kim

Ph.D. Dissertation, 2000


Development in modern phonological theory has led to reanalysis of longstanding problems in historical linguistics. In particular, the introduction of prosodic units as a point of reference in sound change overcomes some of the most notable problems in Germanic historical phonology. This thesis can be seen as an extension and refinement of this trend. The main goal of this dissertation is to provide an account of stress and prosodically-related phenomena from Germanic to Middle English within the framework of lexical phonology and metrical phonology. I argue that these phonological phenomena can be accounted for through the interaction of prosodic domains with morphological operations in the lexicon. I propose that a bimoraic trochee plays a role at all stages of development, in West Germanic, Gothic, Old English and Middle English. Diachronic changes from one period to another are examined in terms of their connections to prosody. New explanations are proposed for several controversial issues in Germanic prosody. First, I show how phonological phenomena taking place at different language stages refer to prosodic foot structures. For example, Sievers' Law in Gothic, West Germanic Gemination and Middle English Open Syllable Lengthening are treated in a unified way as remedial processes to reparse a monomoraic syllable as a bimoraic foot. Old English High Vowel Deletion is also accounted for in the domain of the bimoraic foot. Second, by means of the metrical tree theory and the prosodic hierarchy, I offer a synchronic and diachronic account of stress patterns from Proto-Germanic via Old English to Middle English. I argue that an asymmetry between main and secondary stresses exists in Germanic which can be captured by distinguishing prosodic domains for each type of stress assignment: morphologically-sensitive main stress on the syllable level and phonologically-sensitive secondary stress on the foot level. In addition, this thesis handles phonological phenomena sensitive to morphological information. For example, the morphological sensitivity of main stress assignments in Germanic and Sievers' Law in Gothic is captured without morphological stipulations or any additional ad hoc machinery by adopting the insights of lexical phonology.

Department of Linguistics University of Wisconsin-Madison

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