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... The present study therefore follows a line of reasoning that has been productively pursued in much recent research and applies it to a phenomenon that has so far not been approached from this perspective. Specifically, we focus on the lexical implementation of a Middle English sound change known as Open Syllable Lengthening (henceforth OSL;Luick 1964;Minkova 1982;Ritt 1994). OSL lengthened vowels in open syllables, produced forms such as Late Middle English /maːk/ make or /bɛː.vər/ ...
... > /beː.və;r/; Bermúdez-Otero 1998b; Lahiri and Dresher 1999;Mailhammer et al. 2015;Minkova 1982;Minkova and Lefkowitz 2020;Ritt 1994). However, there were crucial restrictions on its implementation. ...
... After all, when OSL was completed, the vowels in lengthened make /maːk/, name /naːm/ or hope /hɔːp/ were no longer in open syllables at all. The conclusion that has been drawn from this is that the lengthening must have been compensatory, i.e., that it made up for the weight loss induced by schwa loss (Bermúdez-Otero 1998a;Minkova 1982;Minkova and Lefkowitz 2020). This hypothesis receives support from the fact that stable disyllables in which schwa loss was at least optional (e.g., beaver could be realized as /beː.vr̩ ...
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Words are processed more easily when they have canonical phonotactic shapes, i.e., shapes that are frequent both in the lexicon and in usage. We explore whether this cognitively grounded constraint or preference implies testable predictions about the implementation of sound change. Specifically, we hypothesise that words with canonical shapes favour, or ‘select for’, sound changes that (re-)produce words with the same shapes. To test this, we investigate a Middle English sound change known as Open Syllable Lengthening (OSL). OSL lengthened vowels in disyllables such as ME /ma.kə/ make, but more or less only when they became monosyllabic and when their vowels were non-high. We predict that word shapes produced by this implementation pattern should correspond to the shapes that were most common among morphologically simple monosyllables and disyllables at the time when OSL occurred. We test this prediction against Early Middle English corpus data. Our results largely confirm our prediction: monosyllables produced by OSL indeed conformed to the shapes that were most frequent among already existing monosyllables. At the same time, the failure of OSL to affect disyllables (such as body) prevented them from assuming shapes that were far more typical of morphologically complex word forms than of simple ones. This suggests that the actuation and implementation of sound changes may be even more sensitive to lexical probabilities than hitherto suspected. Also, it demonstrates how diachronic data can be used to test hypotheses about constraints on word recognition and processing.
... The research presented here addresses a familiar quantity change in English, commonly referred to as Middle English Open Syllable Lengthening (MEOSL). Earlier publications on the subject, including Minkova (1982Minkova ( , 1985Minkova ( , 2014, Ritt (1988Ritt ( , 1992Ritt ( , 1994Ritt ( , 1997Ritt ( , 2000, Bermúdez-Otero (1998), Lahiri & Dresher (1999), identified some problematic aspects of the existing accounts. In particular, the outstanding question is whether the set of diachronic correspondences covered by the change can be adequately explained as its established name suggestsin terms of a single conditioning factor. ...
... Unstressed vowel syncope in (C)VCəC stems, on the other hand, was optional and generally preserved the disyllabic structure of the inputs. 7 A previously established predictor of lengthened and unlengthened stressed short vowels in the stem-forms is σ 2 stability (Minkova 1982(Minkova , 1985Ritt 1994: 30ff.): diachronic loss of σ 2 as in (2a) corresponds to a near-categorical lengthening. ...
... (3) (C)V.CəT items eligible for OSL (Minkova 1982;Bermúdez-Otero 1998: 193) With the exception of naked, possibly influenced by the ME verb nāke (c.1350) and adjective nāk(e) 'naked' (c.1300), 16 all other items preserve the original short vowel. The inhibition of lengthening in stems with -.əT# σ 2 rhymes seems to require an Figure 1. ...
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This study addresses a controversial aspect of the change traditionally known as Middle English Open Syllable Lengthening (MEOSL): the variable results of lengthening in disyllabic (C)V.CVC stems, the heaven – haven conundrum. It presents a full philological survey of the recoverable monomorphemic input items and their reflexes in Present-day English (PDE). A re-examination of the empirical data reveals a previously unnoticed correlation between lengthening and the sonority of the medial consonant in forms such as pa p er , ro ck et , ga nn et and ba r on , as well as interplay between that consonant and the σ 2 coda. The alignment of disyllabic stems with a medial alveolar stop and a sonorant weak syllable coda ( Latin , better , otter ) with (C)V.RVR stems ( baron , felon , moral ) opens up a new perspective on the reconstruction of tapping in English. The results of lengthening in disyllabic forms, including those previously thought of as ‘exceptions’ to the change, are modeled in Classical OT and Maxent OT, prompting an account which reframes MEOSL as a stem-level compensatory process (MECL) for all inputs. We show that OT grammars with conventional constraints can correctly predict variation in the (C)V.TəR stems and categorical lengthening or non-lengthening in other disyllabic stems. Broadening the phonological factors beyond the open-syllable condition for potential stressed σ 1 inputs in (C)V.CV(C) stems allows us to apply the same constraints to stems whose input structure does not involve an open syllable and to propose a uniform account of stressed vowel quantity in all late Middle English mono- and di-syllabic stems.
... Yet in other ways, it has continued to be a puzzling phenomenon. Specifically, the role of Middle English open syllable lengthening (MEOSL) and its relationship to other sound changes has been discussed lately in several articles: Minkova ( 1982) presents evidence to support her contention that MEOSL and schwa loss "were simultaneous and interdependent" (p. 44); similarly Ogura (1987: 126) makes MEOSL dependent upon "the change of the duration of the second vowel in dissyllabic words." ...
... What effect would such a claim have on the arguments above concerning open syllable lengthening? Minkova (1982) argues that although "it is generally believed that OSL preceded schwa loss" (p. 43), they were in fact "simultaneous and interdependent" (p. ...
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The date at which Middle English open syllable lengthening began and the value of the evidence from the Ormulum (ca. 1200) in determining that date have been disputed. This paper reviews the evidence from Orm’s accent marks and breves and from the metrical scheme of the poem. Four words with etymologically short vowels were marked with an accent mark by Orm—one adjective in a stressed context and three nouns. Evidence from the use of breves (under the theory that Orm so marked those words which were in danger of being “mispronounced” with long vowels) indicates that content words are marked more often than function words, with nouns being marked most frequently, then verbs, adjectives and adverbs. Both Orm’s use of accent marks and his use of breves are in accord with what the theory of lexical diffusion would lead one to expect at the beginning stage of open-syllable lengthening. Similarly, Orm’s use of several nouns with etymologically short vowels in the penultimate syllable of his line of verse (which required a heavy syllable) supports the conclusion that open-syllable lengthening had begun in his dialect.
... Early Middle English CVCV words become CVVC as a result of schwa apocope (Minkova 1982). ...
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The development of low vowels in the history of English is one which shows continuous movement, usually upwards along earlier back and later front trajectories. In addition, low vowels have been subject to lengthening processes which have compensated for the loss of earlier instances of long low vowels. Shifts along a horizontal axis, from low front to low back, can also be discerned throughout the history of English. The present study begins by examining the situation in late eighteenth-century English, using the Eighteenth-Century English Phonology Database and the works of various prescriptivist writers, to determine the outset for later developments in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It also scrutinises realisations of low vowels in these varieties in order to offer a possible chronology for the overall development of low vowels in the past two centuries.
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I. Some recent work in phonology/phonetics has tended to reaffirm the relevance of larger-than-segment (non-syntactico-morphological) structural units like the syllable: that is, that phonological representations are per se more highly structured than has generally been supposed in the immediate past. On the one hand, it has been argued that various ‘prosodic’ phenomena have as their domain non-arbitrary groupings of segments, including in particular groupings of ‘syllable size’ (e.g. Cheng, 1966; Lehiste, 1970), and that ‘morpheme structure conditions’ and redundancy conditions in general are most naturally interpreted as in large part constraints on syllable structure (cf., e.g., O'Connor & Trim, 1953; Fudge, 1969; Sampson, 1970; and the works they refer to). There have, on the other hand, been a number of studies particularly of co-articulation and of malfunctioning in production (stuttering, spoonerisms, etc.) whose import seems to be that ‘the unit of articulatory programming is larger in size than the segment, and makes it difficult to believe that articulation consists merely in the concatenation of phonemes’ (Kim, 1971: 60) - cf. the work surveyed by Kim and by Fromkin (1968).(Received January 08 1973)