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Contact-induced change and variation in Middle English morphology : A case study on get

Authors
  • Åberg, Johanna
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2021
Source
DiVA - Academic Archive On-line
Keywords
Language
English
License
Green
External links

Abstract

The present study explores the role of interlingual identification in contact between speakers of Old Norse and Old English. The study focuses on the word get as it occurred throughout a selection of texts in the Middle English period. The Old English and Old Norse words for get were cognate, which meant that some phonological and morphological characteristics of the word were similar when the contact between the two speaker communities occurred. A Construction Morphology framework is applied where inflecting features of words are treated as constructions. Interlingually identifiable constructions in Old English and Old Norse are identified by comparing forms, such as vowel alternations or affixes, with the function (i.e., meaning) which they denote. The Middle English dialectal forms were furthermore compared synchronically, and a sociohistorical perspective was considered to establish whether the areas where the Vikings settled and that came under Scandinavian rule in the Danelaw displayed more advanced leveling and/or conformation with the Old Norse system of conjugation. Additionally, the present study sought to explore cognitive processes involved in letting specific forms remain in a contact situation. It was concluded that there were two interlingually identifiable constructions: the past tense vowel alternation from  in the present tense, to  in the 1st preterite, and the past participle -en suffix. These constructions had survived in all the Middle English dialects, and they are furthermore what is left in the contemporary modern paradigm of get. Moreover, it is plausible that these constructions survived the morphological leveling because interlingual identification allowed the same form to trigger the same intended cognitive representation in both speaker groups in the contact situation. The results concludingly suggest that morphological constructions that were not interlingually identifiable were discarded in the morphological leveling that resulted from contact between speakers of Old English and Old Norse. 

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