Linguistic Change in French

By Rebecca Posner | Go to book overview

6
Phonological Change

6.1. PHONOLOGICAL CHANGE -- GENERAL

Classical historical linguistics started from the assumption that linguistic change originates first and foremost in speech-acts, and most often in unperceived phonetic distortion, which may eventually have cumulative effects. Recognition of regularity in soundchange, only dimly perceived before the late eighteenth century, provided the boost for the take-off of the discipline. The regularity had not been obvious to observers while the word, and its meaning, remained for them the paramount linguistic unit: perceiving a patterned relationship between the more abstract and meaningless sound units within the word allowed the breakthrough towards a principled approach to language change. These sound-units (roughly equivalent to phonemes) were identified with the segments represented as letters in alphabetic transcription. It is possible that the discussion in early modern Europe about spelling reform (cf. 1.15), and the attempts to match graphy with pronunciation, made thinkers more conscious of the comparative autonomy of the phonological system from the lexico-semantic system of the language. Linguistics, as we now know it, was launched by the new interest in the perplexing interplay between sound and meaning, just as the study of history got its impetus largely from the new-found perception that institutions, like language, change over time.

However patterns that were discerned in correspondences between languages did not necessarily have chronological consequences for earlier thinkers. Thus one might connect French [ãte], [∮ã], [∮ɛʁ], [∮e], with Latin CANTARE, CAMPUS, CARUS, CASA, and know that Latin was spoken earlier than French, yet not recognize a linear time relationship between the two nor discern any obvious way to get from one to the other. The spellings chanter, champ certainly make the equation between French and Latin more

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Linguistic Change in French
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • List of Tables xvi
  • List of Figures xviii
  • Conventions and Abbreviations xix
  • Introduction 1
  • Further Reading 8
  • Part I: Language Change 9
  • 1 - Defining the Domain 11
  • Further Reading 55
  • 2 - Sociolinguistic History of French 57
  • Part Ii: Linguistic Change 103
  • 3 - Processes of Linguistic Change 105
  • Further Reading 142
  • 4 - Lexical Change 143
  • 5 - Semantic Change 185
  • Further Reading 214
  • 6 - Phonological Change 216
  • Further Reading 292
  • 7 - Morphological Change 294
  • Further Reading 343
  • 8 - Syntactic Change 344
  • Further Reading 416
  • In Place of a Conclusion 419
  • Bibliography 425
  • Name Index 489
  • Subject Index 499
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