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Vocalization of fricatives.

During the ME period all English diphthongs turned into monophthongs and thus the OE system of diphthongs disintegrated, but parallely in the same period a group of new diphthongs was developed having as a resource vocalization of fricatives y, y’, x, x’. In OE the first pair was spelt through the letter з, the second pair – through the letter h, but in ME the diagraph h was introduced to reflect x, x’. Of these 3 fricatives 2 were palatal x’, y’, the palatal fricatives in combination with a preceded vowel yielded diphthongs in i, and velar fricatives yield in u. It is supposed that palatal x’, y’ were the first to be involved into the process of vocalization: the first of them began to vocalize in OE, the second x’ in the beginning of the ME. The OE combination æy’ developed in the ME into the diphthongs ai and ey’ – ei (dæg-dai) in ME texts there can be found the cases of the intermediate state of vocalization reflected in spelling mæig, dæiз. Here the weakened palatal y’ is preceded by the newly developed vocalic glide i. it should be mentioned that the diphthong ai and ei were very similar to their phonetic features and soon they merged, which explains modern pronunciation of the words: say, day, lay, may. Originally, they had the diphthong ai. The palatal fricative x’ usually occurred after the close vowel I together with which it didn’t produce a diphthong but a long monophthong i: (cniht-kniht, knixt-kni:t). Even if x’ occurred open vowels the final results of its vocalization through the gradual stage of it’s development was the same (heah-heihhigh(hi: )). Non palatal fricatives x, y were usually preceded by Λ or o. after their vocalization there developed 2 diphthongs: au and ou (ay-aw-au, oy-ow-ou). Here again the intermediate stage of vocalization of y into u, which was w (drayan-drawen-drauen). If y was preceded by the close u, vocalization resulted in the development of the long monopthong u: (fluyol-flu:l). velar y could be vocalized after l, r (boryah-borəu). the vocalized fricatives x together with the preceding vowel produced diphthong au and ou (brohte-broute). Of the 4 fricatives above mentioned x was the latest to be vocalized and it’s change was not of a universal character. Alongside u glide serving as the second element of the diphthong au, ou it could also developed into another fricative which was f (laugh, rough, enough) or remanded unchanged. Thus, during the OE period the OE system of diphthong was superseded by a new system. OE diphthongs of the ea or eo type had the second element open or half open, while in the new diphthong of the ai or au type it was close. Thus, numerous qualitative and quantitative changes of the ME period affected all kinds of vowel phonems. In the process of these changes short vowels tended to became wild and long vowels-narrow. All OE diphthongs became monothongs. Instead on the bases of vocalized fricatives a new system was developed. These new diphthongs were: ai, ei, au, oy. In ME vowel length lost its phonemic value and as a result a strickt system of long and short vowels disappeared. The system of ME monophthongs appeared.

Middle English dialect.

During the ME period the whole system of OE vowel suffered considerable changes either quantitative or qualitative. Quite often these changes had dialectal peculiarities. In ME old-English dialects regrouped in accordance with their geographical position. There were the fallowing essential groups: the northern dialects : it had developed from OE Northumbrian dialect. In ME it also comprised the dialects from Yorkshire and Lancashire. The midland dialect: they had developed from Mercian dialect. It was represented in ME by 2 main areas – east and west midland. The southern dialect: it comprised OE Kentish, west-Saxon, east-sakson dialects. East-Saxon dialect was not important in OE, but it became very important in ME, since it was the part of London dialect and it established its priority over other dialects.

Middle English phonetic. Vowels

Extensive changes of vowels are one of the most remarkable features of English linguistic history. A variety of changes affected vowels in stressed syllables; the modification of unaccented vowels was more uniform and simple. It is convenient to begin the description of vowel changes with unstressed vowels, for they will be found in many examples given for other purposes and should therefore be made clear in advance. It should be borne in mind, however, that the boundaries between stressed and unstressed vowels were not static: in the course of time a vowel could lose or acquire stress, as in many words stress was shifted; consequently, the vowel would pass into the other group and would be subjected to other kind of changes.

In ME and NE the main direction of evolution of unstressed vowels was the same as before; even in the pre-written period unstressed vowels had lost many of their former distinctions, namely their differences in quality as well as some of their differences in quality. The tendency towards phonetic reduction operated in all the subsequent periods of history and was particularly strong in unstressed final syllables in ME.

In Early ME the pronunciaLion of unstressed syllables became increasingly indistinct. As compared to OE, which distinguished five short vowels in unstressed position, Late ME had only two -vowels in unaccented syllables: [a] and [i], which are never directly contrasted; this means that phonemic contrasts in unstressed vowels had been practically lost.

Confer some OE words with their descendants in Late ME and TABLE!!!

The occurrence of only two vowels, [a} and [t}, in unstressed final syllables is regarded a4 an important mark of ME, distinguished it on the one hand from OE with its greater variety of unstressed vowels, and on the other hand from NE . when the ME final [a] was dropped.

This final [a] disappeared in Late ME thought it continued to he spelt as -e. The loss of [a] started in the North, spread to the Midlands, and reached the Southern areas be the 15`h c. In the London dialect of Chaucer's time it was very unstable and could be easily missed out before a following initial vowel or when required by rhythm. When the ending -e survived only in spelling, it was understood as a means of showing the length of the vowel in the preceding syllable and was added, to words which did not have this ending before: confer OE stAn, rAd and ME stoop, stone. rode (NE stone. rode)

In ME and NE the vowels in stressed syllables changed both in quality and quantity, under the influence of the environment and independently, alone and together with surrounding sounds. As a matter of fact, not a single OE long monophthong or diphthong has remained unaltered in the course of history; only a few short vowels were not changed, unless they were lengthened and then shared the fate of long vowels (for instance, short [i] and [o] have not suffered any changes in is and of - OE is, of, but the same sounds have developed into diphthongs if they became long: OE blind > NIL blind [bli:nd]> NE blind Though the total number of phonemes has practically remained the same, their distinctive features and the principles of their opposition in the system, have altered. Long vowels were the most changeable and historically unstable group of English sounds. At all times they displayed a strong tendency to become narrower and to diphthongise, whereas short vowels displayed a reverse trend--towards greater openness.

In Early OE the prevalent type of vowel changes were assimilative changes mainly affecting the quality of the vowels. Early ME is mainly characterised by positional quantitative changes of monophthongs; at the same time profound independent changes affected the system of diphtongs; OE diphthongs were nionophtliongised and lost, and new types of diphthongs developed from vowels and consonants. Late ME saw the beginnings of a new series of sweeping changcs:independent qualitative changes of all long vowels known a s the "Great Vowel Shift" which lasted form 14th till the 17th or even 18th c.

The system of vowels in Late ME was no longer symmetrical. The OE balance of long and short vowels had been disrupted and was never restored again. Correlation through quantity car. no more be regarded as the basis of phonemic oppositions in the vowel system.. Moreover, the very character o$ quantitative differences between the vowels is believed to have been considerabIy altered. Some phoneticians define the new, differences between the former long and short vowels as "lax-' versus "tense", others interpret their correlations as oppositions of "contact", in which the short vowels are "chacked" and the long vowels are



Short: e ei ai oi au

Long: i: e: a: u: au ou


The early modern period had a numerous vowel changes. The most prominent is the great vowel shift. It affected the system of long vowels, all of which changed their quality after the shift. They either narrowed or developed into diphthongs. The shift can be defined as an independent phonetic conditions for it can be traced in the syllable or in the word. But never the less it affected every stressed long vowel in any position. i: - ai (c∫i:ld-c∫aild), e: - i: (ke:pn – ki:p), E: - e: - i: (mE:l – mi:l), a: - e: - ei (na:m - neim), o: - o: - ou (ro:d – roud), o: - u: (mo:n – mu:n), u: - au (mu:s – maus).

Spelling changes: 1) though, the shift affected the pronounsiation of all the words containing long vowels, yet it was not followed by any regular spelling changes. And few graphic replacements introduced in the 16th century failed to reflect a systematic character of the changes. Thus, the diagraphs ee and iewere used for the sound e:, while the diagraph ea was introduced to reflect E:. But the further merging of e: and E: in i: made their graphic distinguishes useless (meet-meat, steal-steel). In the similar way 2 diagraphs were introduced to represent o: o: (oo-o:, oa-O:). This innovation proved to be more useful as diagraphs still indicate 2 different sounds in Mod.E: oo-u: (room, mood), oa-ou (boat, phoan). 2) Mute e during the period there was introduced another thing to indicate the lengths of the vowels. That was the final mute e. It produced the position of the open syllable for the root vowel and starting with the 13th century an open syllable had been lengthening posing. And during the great vowel shift these mute e began to be adopted even to the words, where it have benn never spelt before, and where it was to serve as a signal of a long open vowel (ban-bon-bone, lic-lik-like). 3) Alphabet. During the shif even the names of some letters were changed: a-ei, e-I, i-ai, be-bi, ka-kei. But not only the names of the leters, but also their values had changed. Before the shift the letter i stood for the sound i:. after the shift it began to denote 2 sounds, which are different in their qualities: i, ai (bit-bait). Similar changes happened to some other vowels: a (mad-made); u (cub-cube); e (pit-pet), o (god-gold). In general after the shift the gap between the spoken and written forms of words increased and the spelling system became more conservative and conventional than before. Though, in general the shift was the series of constant and systematic changes, still there are some cases, which need explanation and comments. First of all it concerns the origin of diphthong ei in the word brake, steak. Henry Wyld made a supposition, that this irregular pronunciation might have been influenced by a certain dialects. But he didn’t mansion any particular dialects. The second interpretation is given by Jasperson. In seems to be more convincing. He thought, that during the shift 2 long vowels a: and e: might have some intermediate stages of development, which were common, which had caused the pronunciation of diphthong ei and the words above mentioned. Being a systematic change of considerable results the shift posed a number of serious problems to scholars. The problems are connected with a chronological frame of the shift and its causes direction of change and their phonemic values.

Possible reasons, periodisation of THE GREAT VOWEL SHIFT.

Henry Sweet and Jespensor thought that the shift began in 16th century and was completed in the 18th century. Their arguments were based on the 17th orthography and poetic rhymes. The sources used by Wyld seemed to be more reliable. He studied all sorts of documents of the 15th – 16th century. Wyld’s conclusion was that the shift was completed by the late 16th century that the pronunciation of Shakespeare’s time basically considered with the present day pronunciation. This conclusion is also supported by our linguists Ivanova and Chahojan. They consider that the end of the 14th century was the starting point of the shift and the 16th century it’s end. There was also the point that the shift began in 12or 13th century. The chronological frame suggested by Rastorgueva covers the periods between the 14th and 18th century. These periodisation seems to be more reliable. The causes of the shift. They have not been completely clarified, but there are some suppositions. 1) The berlins scholar horn connects the shift with international conditions. Pronunciation of a vowel with a high tone contributed to a narrower of its articulation, which took place in the case of the shift. The authors confirm the supposition by observation of similar phonetic facts in modern English speech. But these point of view is not very clear. V. Plotkin connects shift with the lost of unstressed ə. As a result of these loose there arose a great number of monosyllabic words., which differed from each other only in the quantity of a vowel. (cvc: rod-road, fit-feet, lit-lead). Under such circumstances the differences between long and short vowel was found to acquire phonemic reference of vowel quality. In overcoming these contradiction there developed a change into quality of long vowels, which either narrowed or diphthongized. These theory deserves serious appreciation and not only for its logical character but also for its attempt to reveal the function of importance of some changes. Direction of the shift. There are 2 opposition approaches to these problem. They are known as “push chain” and “drag chain”. According to the 1 theory the changes started at the widest vowel a: o: and every step of their narrowing pushed the joining vowel away to avoid considers. So it finally the closest vowel which could not possibly become narrower were published out of the set of the monothong and became diphthong. (i:-ai, u:-au). The opposite view – “drag chain”. According to these theory the change started at the closest vowels i: and u:. these vowels became dophthongs dragging after themselves their neighbours e:, o: which occupied vacant positions. Every vowel made a step in these direction except E:, which made 2 steps e:-i:. the great vowel shift is excepted universally as a significant phonetic change of vowels, but it didn’t result in the development of new vowel phonemes . these fact will be obvious if we campere the system of long vowels, which had excited before the shift with that which arouse from the shift. (wey-make, ti:me-sea). Nevertheless great vowel shift is an important event in the history of the English vowel system. Since the distribution of long vowels was completely lost or changed by it. Besides the number of positions in which the diphthongs ai, ei, ou, au could be met increase greatly and that was one of the reasons of development of allophones, which excited in Mod.E (mail-male, tail-tale, pail-peil). The words of the first column got the diphthong ei during ME as a result of vocalization of fricatives, while in the words of the second column the same diphthong is the result of the great vowel shift. We may conclude, that the main result of the great vowel shift was the rise of a new binary phonetic opposition.

Middle English phonetics. Consonants. (43-44)

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