This 2003 study uses evidence from early English verse to reconstruct the course of some central phonological changes in the history of the language. It builds on the premise that alliteration reflects faithfully the acoustic identity and similarity of stressed syllable onsets. Individual chapters cover the history of the velars, the structure and history of vowel-initial syllable onsets, the behaviour of onset clusters, and the chronology and motivation of cluster reduction (gn-, kn-, hr-, hl-, hn-, hw-, wr-, wl-). Examination of the patterns of group alliteration in Old and Middle English reveals a hierarchy of cluster-internal cohesiveness which leads to new conclusions regarding the causes for the special treatment of sp-, st-, sk- in alliteration. The analysis draws on phonetically based Optimality-Theoretic models. The book presents valuable information about the medieval poetic canon and elucidates the relationship between orality and literacy in the evolution of English verse.
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(228mm x 152mm x 24mm)
Cambridge University Press
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
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Author Biography - Donka Minkova
Donka Minkova is Professor of English Language at the University of California, Los Angeles. She has published widely in the fields of English and Germanic historical phonology and syntax, historical dialectology and English historical metrics. She is the author of The History of Final Vowels in English (1991) and of English Words: History and Structure (with Robert Stockwell, Cambridge University Press, 2001). She is also co-editor, with Robert Stockwell of Studies in the History of the English Language: A Millennial Perspective.