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Folia Linguistica

Acta Societatis Linguisticae Europaeae

Editor-in-Chief: Cuyckens, Hubert / Fischer, Olga / Norde, Muriel

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Folia Linguistica Historica
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Online
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1614-7308
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Volume 34, Issue 1 (Oct 2013)

Issues

The early Middle English reflexes of Germanic *ik ‘I’: Unpacking the changes

Margaret Laing
  • Corresponding author
  • Institute for Historical Dialectology Linguistics and English Language School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences University of Edinburgh Dugald Stewart Building 3 Charles Street Edinburgh EH8 9AD United Kingdom
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/ Roger Lass
  • Institute for Historical Dialectology Linguistics and English Language School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences University of Edinburgh Dugald Stewart Building 3 Charles Street Edinburgh EH8 9AD United Kingdom
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Published Online: 2013-10-16 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/flih.2013.004

Abstract

The phonological shape of the PDE first-person nominative singular pronoun ‘I’ is assumed to have a simple history. The final consonant of WGmc *ik ‘palatalises’ (i.e. fronts and assibilates), and later drops, yielding [i-], which develops through the Great Vowel Shift into something like [ai]. However, the late Old English and early Middle English evidence indicates that such a simple narrative does not match the attested data. Rather, there are significant temporal, geographical and variational aspects, including complex lexical diffusion. The Linguistic Atlasof Early Middle English, Corpus of Tagged of Texts contains 145 texts that include one or more variants of the pronoun ‘I’. Between them, they exemplify an intricate history. In this article we unpack the changes that have brought about the attested complexity. As a basis we use the etymology of this item created for the recently published Corpus of Narrative Etymologies (CoNE), which itself interfaces with its accompanying Corpus of Changes (CC). The history of this small grammatical word ultimately needs to be considered against the wider background of velar palatalisation in general and in relation to the reflexes of other commonly occurring items of a similar structure. But the changes visible in ‘I’ seem not to be fully replicated in any of them, and here we confine ourselves to its particular and apparently unique history.

Keywords: Old and Middle English; first-person pronoun; palatalisation; lenition

About the article

Published Online: 2013-10-16

Published in Print: 2013-10-01


Citation Information: Folia Linguistica Historica, ISSN (Online) 1614-7316, ISSN (Print) 0168-647X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/flih.2013.004.

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