Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login

New from Cambridge University Press!


Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

We Have a New Site!

With the help of your donations we have been making good progress on designing and launching our new website! Check it out at!
***We are still in our beta stages for the new site--if you have any feedback, be sure to let us know at***

Academic Paper

Title: Lexical diffusion in the making: the lengthening of Middle English /a/ during the eighteenth century and across the diasystem of English
Author: Nicolas Trapateau
Linguistic Field: Historical Linguistics; Phonology
Subject Language: English
Abstract: A long /aː/ in pre-fricative and pre-nasal contexts in words such as fast, answer or after is one of the most distinctive phonological features of British RP and, to a certain extent, of Southern Hemisphere varieties of English (Trudgill 2010). The lengthening of /a/ has been particularly gaining ground from the eighteenth century onwards (Beal 1999; Jones 2006). The pronouncing dictionaries published between the eighteenth century and the present day allow us to trace its lexical diffusion (Labov 1994) across the whole lexicon. Drawing on the statistics of the ARCHER corpus, the lexical sets of the ECEP database, the full electronic edition of Walker's dictionary (1791), Wells’ Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (2008) and the Macquarie Dictionary (2015), this article examines the role played by the phonetic environment, word frequency, phonetic analogy and isolated lead words like draught or master in the spread of the lengthening of /a/. The results show that word frequency per se has no clear effect on /a/ lengthening in either pre-fricative or pre-nasal environments in eighteenth-century sources. The article also offers a possible relative chronology of the spread of that phenomenon to each phonetic environment within the bath set.


This article appears IN English Language and Linguistics Vol. 24, Issue 3, which you can READ on Cambridge's site .

Return to TOC.

View the full article for free in the current issue of
Cambridge Extra Magazine!
Add a new paper
Return to Academic Papers main page
Return to Directory of Linguists main page