Historical Outlines of English Sounds and Inflections

By Samuel Moore | Go to book overview
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It is now seventeen years since the untimely death of Professor Samuel Moore and thirty-two since the first appearance of this textbook under its original title, Historical Outlines of English Phonology and Middle English Grammar. The passage of time has lessened neither the usefulness of nor the demand for the volume which presented with such clarity and concision the broad experience and profound learning of its author. The Historical Outlines has introduced many generations of graduate students to the language of Chaucer, guided them in their analysis of Middle English texts, and provided them with a synthesis of the development of the sounds and inflections of the English language. The present revision of this book has been undertaken in order that it may continue its long career of service.

Instructors and students will find in this revised edition a thoroughgoing alteration of the scheme of organization, some changes in presentation, but, except in one instance, no essential difference in the factual content or the conclusions which have been derived from these facts. The changes in organization have been made as a result of my knowledge of the way in which the book is used in various graduate and undergraduate courses in a number of institutions throughout the country. They may be summarized as follows: (1) Whereas in the earlier editions the sounds, inflections, and dialects of Old English served mainly as a point of departure for the treatment of Middle English, they are here treated fully, though concisely, as subjects in their own right. (2) All materials pertaining to Middle English have been placed in juxtaposition, including the appendix of the previous volume, devoted to Middle English spelling, which has been added to the chapter on Middle English sounds. (3) The section on Middle English is followed by a treatment of the transition from Middle to Modern English. (4) The chapter on the language of Chaucer is so placed that it may be employed as an introduction to Middle English in general, or as an auxiliary to literary study.

Changes in presentation involve chiefly a complete revision of the phonetic alphabet which is employed. When Professor Moore wrote the first version of this text, the use of phonetic symbols in language textbooks was still in a chaotic state. Many similar books used confusing systems of diacritics with little uniformity among them. There was an International Phonetic Alphabet, but it had not yet been satisfactorily adapted to the purpose of indicating English, particularly American English, pronunciation. Moore saw the virtues of the International


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