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Academic Paper


Title: The Conundrum of Old Norse Umlaut: Sound Change versus Crisis Analogy
Author: Gregory K. Iverson
Email: click here TO access email
Homepage: http://www.uwm.edu/~iverson
Institution: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Author: Joseph C Salmons
Email: click here TO access email
Homepage: http://joseph-salmons.net
Institution: University of Wisconsin Madison
Linguistic Field: Phonology
Subject Language: Norse, Old
Abstract: This paper pursues an "ingenerate" or phonetically based account of i-umlaut as it unfolded in North Germanic. We focus on a famous problem relating to umlaut distributions in i-stem nouns: In the long stems of that class (gestr 'guest', from earlier *gastiz), where umlaut is arguably less motivated phonetically, it is generally reflected throughout the paradigms, but in short stems (staðr 'place', from earlier *staðir), where it is more expected, umlaut is generally absent. A central feature of our understanding of these and other Norse facts is the interleaving of processes of sound change and analogy, the latter of which, by an assumption validated elsewhere, comes into play only under extraordinary circumstances. In contrast to previous work on the conundrum of umlaut in Old Norse, we situate this account in the context of umlaut as a general phenomenon, with parallels in development to that of its West Germanic sisters.

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This article appears IN Journal of Germanic Linguistics Vol. 16, Issue 1.

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