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- Changes in the system of vowels:

- Fracture/breaking (преломление) – diphthongization of short vowels ‘a’, ‘e’ before the clusters: ‘r+ con.’, ‘l + con.’, ‘ h+ con., final ‘ h’: ærm – earm, herte – heorte, selh – seolh;

- Gradation /ablaut: (alternation of vowels in different grammatical forms:

E.g. in strong verbs: Infinitive (9iban), Past sing. (9af), Past Pl. (9ebum), Second Part. (9ibans);

- Palatalisation: diphthongisation of vowels under the influence of the initial palatal consonants ‘g’, ‘c’ ( before front vowels) and the cluster ‘sc’ (all vowels): gefan – giefan, scacan – sceacan;

- Mutation/Umlaut( перегласовка)- a change of vowel caused by partial assimilation to the following vowel:

i-mutation – caused by ‘i’, ‘j’ of the following syllable: namnian – nemnan, fullian- fyllan;

back/velar mutation – phonetic change caused by a back vowel (u,o,a) of the following syllable, which resulted in the diphthongisation of the preceding vowel: hefon – heofon;

Contraction: if after a consonant had dropped, two vowels met inside a word, they were usually contracted into one long vowel: slahan – sleahan – sle:an;

Lengthening of Vowels: before ‘nd’, ‘ld, ‘mb’: bindan – bīndan; climban - clīmban


Vowel Changes in MdE and Early MnE.

Unstressed vowels

Levelling of unstressed vowels: all unstressed vowels were as a rule weakened and reduced to a neutral vowel, which was denoted by the letter –e. Thus, the infinitive suffix – an was reduced to –en: tellan – tellen, in a similar way: sunu – sune, sone. This weakening of unstressed vowels is closely connected with developments in declension and conjugation. From the 13th c. onwards, some dialects showed certain vacillation in spelling unstressed vowels, which probably reflected peculiarities of pronunciation: askid, stonus.

Stressed Vowels

One of the most important sound changes of the Early MDE period of the loss of OE diphthongs and the growth of new diphthongs, with new qualitative and quantitative distinctions.

Monophthongization of OE Diphthongs: all OE diphthongs were monophthongized in ME.: eald – ald, healf-half, earm –arm (poor). But before ‘ld’ ‘ea’ yielded different results in different dialects. OE short ‘eo’ changed first into the vowel ‘ö’ spelt ‘eo’. In other dialects it changed into ‘e’ heorte – hörte-herte. (heart). OE long eo: changed into long closed e:, often spelt ‘ee’: deo:p – de:p, deep.

New diphthongs: with i-glides and u-glides {ei, ai, au, ou). : OE dæ9 developed into day[dai]

Quantitative vole changes

Shortening and Lengthening of Vowels: a long vowel before two consonants is shortened: OE – ce:pan (infinitive), ME ke:pen, but Past tense – kepte; but it remains long in other environments. But long vowels remain long before ‘ the lengthening’ consonant groups: ld, nd, mb: we:nen (think), but we:nde (past simple). Long consonants also remain long before – st: lae:sta (least) – le:st. In the 13th c. short vowels were lengthened in open syllables. Lengthening affected the short vowels a, e, o.: talu (tale)- ta:le, macian – ma:ken, etc. The narrow vowels iand u remained as a rule unaffected by this change, and thus the difference between short i and long and also between short u and long retained its quality as a phonemically relevant feature.

Changes of individual vowels:

Short and long ‘a’: OE short ‘a’ usually remained unchanged in ME. OE a/o before a nasal developed differently in different dialects. In West Midland ‘o’ was preserved: mon, con; in other dialects (Northern, East Midland and Southern) there is ‘a’ man, can. OE long ‘a’ also developed in different ways in different dialects. In N. it remained unchanged, while in Midland and Southern it changed into long ‘o’: fa:- fo: (foe); ha:m - - ho:m, etc.

Short ‘ae’ and long ‘ae’. OE short ‘ae’ in most dialects developed into short ‘a’: glaed – glad, aeppel – appel. But in the West Midland and Kentish it developed into ‘e’: gled, eppal. OE West Saxon long ‘ae’ changed into long open ‘e:’: slae:pan – sle:pen (sleep); in other dialects this ‘ae:’ had changed into closed ‘e:’. This closed ‘e:’ is preserved in ME.

Short Y and long Y: OE short ‘y’ developed differently in different dialects. In N. And E. .Midland it changed into short ‘i’. In Kentish it became ‘e’ in the remaining dialects it was unchanged. Hence three dialectal variants: ‘first’, ferst’, ‘fyrst’. For example, the word ‘ bury ‘- here the pronunciation is Kentish , but the spelling is South-Western. OE long’y’ developed in the same way as the short ‘y’.

Conclusion: The ME sound system differs from the OE system: 1) OE diphthongs or ‘ea’ and ‘eo’ type disappeared 2) diphthongs of the ‘ei’ ‘ ai’ type arose 3) vowel quantity became dependent on phonetic environment 4) the affricates [ch], [dg] arose. From the phonemic point of view the following points should me stated: 1) vowel quantity lost its phonemic significance, that is two vowel phonemes can no longer be distinguished by quantity” :length versus shortness. Thus the number of vowel phonemes was reduced. 2) on the other hand, the appearance of new diphthongs [ai], [ei] [ au], [ou] marks the rise of four new vowel phonemes. In this way the reduction in the number of vowel phonemes due to changes in quantity is partly counteracted. 3) the number of consonant phonemes increased; the sounds [f, v] which had been allophones of one phoneme, became separate phonemes, no longer dependent on their environment, the same is true with [s,z].


Vowels: 1) loss of the neutral sound of unstressed endings (in the 15th c.2) 2) loss of vowels in intermediate syllables: chapiter = chapter, medicine 3) change of [er] into [ar] with some exceptions: ferre = far, sterre – star , but occasionally this change did not take place: certain, prefect, etc. when it didn’t change into [ar] , it eventually developed into [e:], but ‘clerk, ‘Derby’.


The Great Vowel Shift:began in the 15th century: all long vowels were narrowed and the narrowest were diphthongized:

Take [ta:ka] – [teik]; beat [be:t] [ bi:t]; meet [me:t] [mi;t]; like [li:ka] [laik]; boat [bo:t] [ bout]; tool [to:l] [ tu:l]; house [hu:s] [haus]. All those changes show one general tendency: narrowing of long vowels and diphthongization of the narrowest of them. All these changes occurred gradually, without being noticed by the speakers. Reasons (?)

Vocalisation of [r]]: when a long vowel was followed by ‘r’, new phonemes came into being: (ia], [ea], [ua]: fare [fa;r] – [fea]; tire [ti:r] [taia], [power [pu;ar] [ paua].

Some words have sounds which do not correspond to the general law of the shift.

Long [u:] remained unchanged when followed by a labial consonant: droop, room; [i:] remained unchanged in words borrowed from French: machine, police, etc.; long open [e:] did not always change into [i:], it was shortened in some words head, death, etc.


Other changes:

- short ‘a’ into ‘ae’: hat, cat; but when it was preceded by [w] it it developed into [o]: what, was, ec.

- In the 16th c. 2 new long vowels arose [a:], [o:]

- [a:] – before: bath, father, brass, cast, ask, clasp, calm

- [o:] – before: cork, port, autumn, dawn

- long [u:] was shortened before [k]: book, cook; also in good, foot, etc.

- rise of long [e:] – fir, sir, fur, curtain, worm, word, heard, learn

- short [u] changed into [^]: cut, but, love, son, rough, enough; blood, flood; remained unchanged before labial consonants: pull, full, bull, etc.

- unstressed vowels were reduced either to [i] or [a]: begin, wishes, mountain, etc.

- development of [x]: 1) before [t] it is lost: bright [brixt] – [bri:t} – [brait], brought [brouxt] [ bro:t]2) final [x] changes into [f]: enough, cough, laugh, etc. In a few words it was lost :though, through.

- Loss of consonants: in clusters: lamb, climb, damn, hymn, castle, whistle, muscle, grandmother, landscape

- Loss of consonants in initial clusters: kn, gn, pn, wh: knight, gnat, pneumonia, psyche, etc. [h] in unstressed syllables: shepherd, forehead, Nottingham, etc.



ВНИМАНИЕ: кроме этого,

для успешной итоговой аттестации нужно иметь в виду:

1) практические задания по исторической фонетике и исторической морфологии (всего 15 позиций);

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