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Title: Mechanisms of Language Change
Subtitle: Vowel reduction in 15th century West Frisian
Written By: Arjen P. Versloot
Series Title: LOT Dissertation Series 195
Description:

How does language change take place and could developments be predictable?
In this study, Arjen Versloot evaluates these questions, supported by
analysis of the decline in the use of unstressed vowels in the Frisian
language between 1300 and 1550. This decline is found, for example, in the
words: Old Frisian sitta ‘to sit’ > Modern Frisian sitte and Old Frisian
sone ‘son’> Modern Frisian soan.

The study presents two models of language change. Model one considers the
duration and intensity of vowels in individual words, rather than abstract,
underlying phonemes. The order and timing of vowel reduction can thus be
predicted with 95% accuracy over a period of 200 years. In the second
model, the language user is regarded as a ‘calculating speaker’, evaluating
what he hears from others, estimating the reception by listeners, and a
little lazy in his articulation. With an accuracy of over 90%, the model
predicts the order and timing of changes in verbal and nominal endings
where vowel reduction is involved.

These results of the study support the hypothesis of language as a
deterministic, dynamic system, where the ‘grammar’ and its change are the
outcome of self-organization in the language system. The models are fed
with detailed data from late-mediaeval Frisian texts, providing a
significant amount of new information about Open Syllable Lengthening,
Vowel Balance, Vowel Harmony and Apocope/Syncope. One of the remarkable
conclusions is that 15th and 16th centuries Frisian was probably a tonal
language, just like modern Norwegian.

Publication Year: 2008
Publisher: Netherlands Graduate School of Linguistics / Landelijke (LOT)
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BibTex: View BibTex record
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Phonology
Subject Language(s): Frisian, Western
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Versions:
Format: Paperback
ISBN-13: 9789078328698
Pages: 382
Prices: Europe EURO 29.96