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2016 | 25/2 | 5-29

Article title

Old English without Short Diphthongs: An Alternative Historical Phonology



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As there are serious questions about whether short diphthongs are possible phonemes, the question arises as to what the prehistory of Old English would be without short diphthongs. The most important question is what breaking was, and the answer given is that breaking was a conditioned change of /xʲ to /xˠ/ in noble dialect, in reaction against /xʲ/ in peasant dialect, itself motivated by the phonology of Brittonic. Such a scenario involves violating some of the foundational assumptions of the field, and the violations in question are noted. Examination reveals other cases of Brittonic influence, which apply not only to Old English but to Anglo-Frisian generally, supporting the idea that the Frisians originated as Angles who were driven back the continent. Fundamentally, the idea is to show that a prehistory of Old English without short diphthongs is possible.


  • University of Texas at Austin


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