Periods in the history of English
There are three major periods of English:
Old English (approx. 450 to 1100 AD)
This English is pretty much incomprehensible
Word orders in this time period would not work in modern times
The –an suffix indicates both plurality and past tense
Certain words have disappeared from the lexicon
Middle English (1100 to 1500 AD)
The Great Vowel Shift began in this period and continued on until the 18 th
Modern English (1500 to today)
Reasons behind some language change
Articulatory simplification: typically related to helping the ease of articulation. May delete
a consonant from a cluster or insert a vowel to break up a cluster.
Perceptual bias: people pick up pronunciations of words from how other people say
them and how they perceive this. This can lead to auditory overlap that causes a
Spelling pronunciation: this occurs when a speaker uses the spelling of a word (which
can be very different from how it is actually pronounced) as the pronunciation.
Analogy: the following of a regular pattern over an irregular pattern. This is typically an
extension or overgeneralization.
sing/sang bring/brang Reanalysis: very common with morphological change. It usually involves making a
word into a compound when it was not originally supposed to be a compound
Hamburger (used to mean ‘from Hamburg’) has changed to ‘burger’ as a root
with things such as ‘veggie’, ‘chicken’ acting as affixes
Language contact: Occurs when the speakers of one language interact frequently with
the speakers of another language. This leads to borrowing: where one language takes
words from another language and incorporates it as their own.
‘totem’ and ‘canoe’ were Aboriginal words that were incorporated into English
Hypercorrection: occurs when a speaker tries to speak another language and
overgeneralizes particular rules.
Types of sound change = Phonological Change (how something sounds)
Sequential Change – sound change that involves sequences of segments
Assimilation – in which one segment influences another that is close by, used for
simplification of articulation
Place of articulation assimilation: the place of articulation changes so that the
place is similar to the sound next to it
Manner of articulation assimilation: the manner of articulation changes so that the
manner is similar to the sound next to it
Palatalization: the effect that front vowels and [j] have on velars, alveolars, and
dental stops. It makes their place of articulation more palatal.
o Palatization is usually the first step of affrication
Affrication: when palatal stops become affricates.
o [ts] or [tʃ] if the stop was voiceless
o [dz] or [dʒ] if the stop was voiced
Nasalization: the effect nasal consonants can have on adjacent vowels
Umlaut: The effect of a vowel of one syllable on the vowel of another syllable.
Usually results in a front, unrounded vowels
Dissimilation – one segment is made less like another segment. Occurs much less
frequently than assimilation
Epenthesis – the insertion of a consonant or vowel into a particular environment
Can be in anticipation of an upcoming sound
Can be used to break up a sequence of sounds that would be difficult to
pronounce Metathesis – a change in the relative positioning of segments
Weakening and Deletion of Vowels – deletion usually involves syncope and apocope.
Deletion is usually preceeded by vowel reduction.
Vowel Reduction: in which a full vowel is reduced to a schwa-like sound.
Typically affects short vowels in unstressed syllables.
Syncope: word internal vowel
Apocope: word final vowel
Weakening and Deletion of Consonants – deletion is a very common sound change
Degemination – geminates (long consonants) are weakened to non-geminates.
o Consonant strength – geminates are stronger than non-geminates
o Order – voiceless stops; voiceless fricat