Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

Karl Luick's Historische Grammatik and Medieval English Consonant Changes

Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

Karl Luick's Historische Grammatik and Medieval English Consonant Changes

Article excerpt


The fragments of Karl Luick's Historische Grammatik der englischen Sprache published during his lifetime which contained an account of the development of English vowels and diphthongs have long served as a theoretical source successfully exploited by a host of historical phonologists. Much less known is the final part of the grammar dealing with consonants, edited and published a few years aider Luick's death by Friedrich Wild and Herbert Koziol (1940). The acceptance by linguists of the part of the grammar devoted to the history of English consonants was not immediate. The article describes the circumstances which determined such an undeservedly lukewarm reception of this important study.

1. Some personal reminiscences of the past

More than two decades ago three scholars of historical English, Professors Gero Bauer, Jacek Fisiak and Dieter Kastovsky, launched an idea to celebrate the hundred twentieth anniversary of the birth of Karl Luick, an eminent scholar of English, former Professor of Vienna University, the author of numerous studies on the history of English, and in addition to his other merits, the scholar who wrote the hitherto best study of English historical phonology concealed under the misleading title Historische Grammatik der englischen Sprache. Because Luick died in 1935, that event was also to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his death. The plans to organise a special conference on that occasion materialised between 15-18th September, 1985, as the Luick-Symposium held at Schloss Liechtenstein near Vienna. Papers at the meeting were presented by scholars such as John Anderson, Klaus Dietz, Richard Hogg, Manfred Markus, Donka Minkova, Herbert Penzl, Herbert Pilch, Matti Rissanen, Robert Stockwell, and others. Although Roger Lass failed to appear to present his paper in person, his contribution was added to the volume of proceedings, which came out three years later as a special publication whose title Luick revisited announced a new fresh look at the rich linguistic legacy of the great Austrian scholar. During the three-year span between the date of the venue and the publication of the book Austrian linguistics suffered a serious loss due to the untimely death of Professor Gero Bauer, the co-editor of the volume, who died in 1988, the same year when Luick revisited was published.

By a mere coincidence the present writer, who also attended the symposium, completed at that time his post-doctoral dissertation which came out under the title A critical survey of a historical phonology of English vowels (with special reference to Karl Luick's Historische Grammatik der englischen Sprache). The monograph appeared in book form a year before Luick revisited saw the light. The title of the study clearly announced that the monograph was confined to the history of English vowels.

Curiously, the imposing volume Luick revisited, with its more than four-hundred and fifty pages and twenty-five articles, could as well deserve the title "A critical survey of a historical phonology of English vowels". If we exclude the four introductory papers in Part one, the one commemorating Luick by Bauer, and those depicting his work on phonology (Fisiak), dialectology (Dietz) and syntax (Fries), the remaining articles belonging to Part two will represent the following areas: vowel phonology (17), consonant phonology (1), morphology (2), syntax (1). Since the non-phonological papers refer to Luick's scattered minor studies on morphology and syntax, it is evident that of the 18 papers written with some reference to Historische Grammatik only one paper, by Alfred Bammesberger, discussed the issue of consonants.

Because the sections on English consonant changes by Luick were available for a long time, especially after the full text the grammar was reprinted in 1964 simultaneously in Germany (Stuttgart: Tauchnitz), United Kingdom (Oxford: Blackwell) and the United States (Cambridge, Mass. …

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