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Sociolinguistics from the Periphery

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Academic Paper


Title: Syncope as the Cause of Präteritumschwund: New Data from an Early New High German Corpus
Author: Christopher D Sapp
Email: click here TO access email
Homepage: http://home.olemiss.edu/~csapp
Institution: University of Mississippi
Linguistic Field: Phonology; Text/Corpus Linguistics
Abstract: This paper examines the cause of the decline of the preterite tense in favor of the present perfect tense in Early New High German. This development has long been attributed to apocope, which rendered the 3sg. weak preterite suffix -te homophonous with the 3sg. present suffix -t. By analyzing a database of over 20,000 past-tense clauses, this study evaluates the apocope account and more recent hypotheses. The resulting data lead to a new explanation: syncope in the 2sg. and 2pl. of weak verbs yielded dispreferred final clusters (-tst and -tt), resulting in a preference in these contexts for the present perfect, which then spread to other contexts.

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This article appears IN Journal of Germanic Linguistics Vol. 21, Issue 4.

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