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Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



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To find some answers Tim Machan explores the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is fascinating and important, for definitions of English have influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the identities of those who live in them.


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This volume provides a new perspective on the evolution of the special language of medicine, based on the electronic corpus of Early Modern English Medical Texts, containing over two million words of medical writing from 1500 to 1700.


Academic Paper


Title: Prosodically Conditioned Morphological Change: Preservation vs Loss in Early English Prefixes
Author: Benjamin J. Molineaux
Institution: University of Oxford
Linguistic Field: Morphology
Subject Language: English, Old
English, Middle
Abstract: This article explores the motivations behind the loss of a number of Germanic prefixes in the history of English. Using Old and Middle English translations of Boethius’ de Consolatione Philosophiae as a corpus, it is shown that prefix loss is not specific to a single word category, nor to the presence of morphosyntactic characteristics such as prefix separability. This state of affairs cannot be explained by current theories of prefix loss, which are generally restricted to inseparable verbal prefixes. The fact that some prefixes are lost and some are preserved, also argues against an across-the-board grammaticalisation account, based mostly on semantic factors. It is held here that a closer look at the prosodic structure of native prefixes can provide a principled explanation for the entirety of our data. To this effect, the optimisation of a resolved moraic trochee (Dresher & Lahiri, 1991) amid significant restructuring of the language's lexicon had crucial impact on the fate of prefixed words. In particular, Early Middle English would have come to prefer maximal, branching feet, and avoid words with prefixes constituting heavy, non-branching feet. Ultimately, the preservation of prosodic structure led to the loss of heavy monosyllabic prefixes due to stress clash between prefix and root. Light monosyllabic and bisyllabic prefixes, in contrast, were preserved, since no clash occurred. This argument explains the changes in prefixation from a purely prosodic standpoint, hence accounting for the data for both verbal and nominal prefixes, which were heretofore dealt with separately.

CUP at LINGUIST

This article appears in English Language and Linguistics Vol. 16, Issue 3, which you can read on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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