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Babenko O.V., PhD in Philology,
National university of life and
environmental sciences of Ukraine, Kyiv

The article deals with the phonological system of Old English. Different processes are described in terms of evolution of the language on this linguistic level at a specific period of time. Pictures and examples illustrate the phonological phenomena in a diachronic way.
Keywords: phonetics, phonology, Old English, Grimm’s Law and Verner’s Law

Phonetics and phonology are related, dependent fields for studying aspects of language. Phonetics is the study of sound in speech; phonology is the study (and use) of sound patterns to create meaning. Phonology relies on phonetic information for its practice, but focuses on how patterns in both speech and non-verbal communication create meaning, and how such patterns are interpreted. Phonology includes comparative linguistic studies of how cognates, sounds, and meaning are transmitted among and between human communities and languages.
The system of vowels in Old English included eight short vowels (monopthongs) (according to other sources 7) and seven long vowels

ɑ æ e i u o y ɑ
ɑ: æ: e: i: u: o: y:
And four short and four long diphthongs
ea eo ie io
ēa ēo īe īo
Pronunciation was characterized by a predictable stress pattern on the first syllable.
The length of the vowel was a phonemic quality. The words having long and short vowels differed in meaning:
ᵹod (god) - ᵹ ō d (good)
west (west) – w ē st (waste)
for (preposition for) – f ō r (past tense of the verb f āran - go)
Assimilative changes influenced OLD English
Assimilative changes are the changes that occurred in the language in specific surroundings. There are two types of assimilation: regressive, progressive.
If a sound influences the preceding sound, the assimilation is regressive, if it influences the following sound it is called progressive.
Both types of assimilation are found in Old English [2, c.30].
Breaking of vowels is the process of formation of a short diphthong from a simple short vowel when it is followed by a specific consonant.
a + r +cons, l +cons. > ea
æ + h+cons. > ea
e + final - > eo
a > ea
For instance,
hard > heard (hard)
arm > earm (arm)
Umlaut of vowels
Umlaut of vowels, which occurred probably in the 6th century, is also called (palatal) front mutation or i/j mutation.
The essence of this change is that a back sound (a, o) changes its quality if there is a front sound (i) in the next syllable.
a > æ; a > e
sandian – sendan (to send)
namnian – nemnan (to name)
Diphthongization after palatal consonants (diphthongization of vowels)
Diphthongs may have resulted from another process in Old English- diphthongization after palatal consonants sk’, k’ and j (sounds) (in spelling sc, c, ᵹ):
a > ea, skal- sceal (shall)
ā > ēa, skāggwon - scēawian (to show)
e > ie, ᵹefan - ᵹiefan (give)
Back , or velar mutation
The essence of this change is that the syllable that influenced the preceding vowel contained a back vowel – o or u, sometimes even a
i > io hira – hiora (their)
silufr – siolufr (silver)
Mutation before h
Sounds a and e that preceded h underwent several changes, mutating to diphthongs ea,ie and finally were reduced to i/y: - naht – neaht-niht-nieht – nyht (night).
The consonant h proved to have interfered with the development of many sounds. When h was placed between two vowels the following changes occurred.
a + h+ vowel > ēa slahan – slēan (slay)
e + h+ vowel > ēo sehen-sēon (see)
There were 19 consonants in Old English.
The subgroup of Germanic languages contains many differences that set them apart from the other I-E languages. The following outstanding linguists made a great contribution into the development of comparative linguistics.

Rusk R. (1787-1832) Grimm J. (1785—1863)
The Germanic Consonant Shift (also known as the First Sound Shift or Grimm's Law) which, in effect, gave birth to the Germanic languages. It is considered to be Grimm’s Law and Verner’s Law taken together. Grimm's Law (or the First Sound Shift) helps to explain the consonant changes from P-I-E to Germanic.
This phenomenon was first described in 1814(according to other sources in 1818) by the Danish linguist Rasmus Rusk. In 1822 it was fully formulated and investigated by the German philologist Jacob Grimm, whose name in the end, it got. Grimm's Law (together with Verner's Law) is considered one of the most well-known phonetic laws in comparative studies. Grimm's Law implies a set of relationships among the consonants of the Germanic and non-Germanic Indo-European languages. Law consists of three parts, which must be thought of as three consecutive phases in the sense of a chain shift:
a. Aspirated voiced stops became Unaspirated voiced stops (Bʰ, dʰ, gʰ became b, d, g)
b. Voiced stops became Voiceless stops (B, d, g became p, t, k)
c. Voiceless stops became Voiceless fricatives (P, t, k became f, θ, x (h))
But Grimm’s realized shortcomings of his theory and expected someone else would discover why p is sometimes becoming b, t is becoming d, k is becoming g. What causes the voicing of these consonants in several cases?
Karl Verner (1846-1896) was a Danish linguist. He was well-trained in Indo-European linguistics. In 1876 he decided to address to a problem of badly shifted consonants. He liked reading his favourite book Franz Bopp’s “Comparative Grammar” which was some kind of the Bible for the 19-th century linguists. Looking at Sanskrit forms and comparing them to Germanic ones Verner noticed that the placement of STRESS (ACCENT) affected how Indo-European consonants were shifted. Then Karl published his findings in the article “An exception to the first consonant shift” in one of the prestigious linguistic research journals. Verner’s Law (A Germanic Voicing Rule) said when the following consonants p, t, k occurred in the middle of the word they would become the voiced consonants b, d, g, and not f, þ, h as predicted by Grimm [1, 33 ]. Voiceless fricatives became voiced (when they were in a voiced environment and the Indo-European stress was not on the preceding syllable).This process was called hardening. Germanic s could also be affected, when stress preceded it, it remained s. If stress was elsewhere s was changed to z and then to r. In linguistics, rhotacism is the conversion of a consonant (usually a voiced alveolar consonant — /z/, /d/, /l/, or /n/) to a rhotic consonant in a certain environment. The most common may be of /z/ to /r/.This linguistic phenomenon is known as Rhotacism. It’s a turning of a Latin s to a Greek r.
There were some more processes on the phonological level. They are treatment of fricatives, hardening, rhotacism, voicing and devoicing.
After the changes under Grimm’s Law and Verner’s Law PG had the following two sets of fricative consonants: voiceless [f, Ө, x, s] and voiced [v, ð, γ, z]. In WG and in Early OE the difference between two groups was supported by new features. PG voiced fricatives tended to be hardened to corresponding plosives while voiceless fricatives, being contrasted to them primarily as fricatives to plosives, developed new voiced allophones. The PG voiced [ð] (due to Verner’s Law) was always hardened to [d] in OE and other WG languages, e.g. Icel, gōðr and OE зōd. The two other fricatives, [v] and [γ] were hardened to [b] and [g] initially and after nasals, otherwise they remained fricatives. PG [z] underwent a phonetic modification through the stage of [з] into [r] and thus became a sonorant, which ultimately merged with the older IE [r]. This process is termed rhotacism. In the meantime or somewhat later the PG set of voiceless fricatives [f, Ө, x, s] and also those of the voiced fricatives which had not turned into plosives, that is, [v] and [γ], were subjected to a new process of voicing and devoicing. In Early OE they became or remained voiced intervocally and between vowels, sonorants and voiced consonants; they remained or became voiceless in other environments, namely, initially, finally and next to other voiceless consonants. In all WG languages, at an early stage of their independent history, most consonants were lengthened after a short vowel before [l]. This process is known as “gemination” or “doubling” of consonants, e.g. fuljan > fyllan (NE fill). The change did not affect the sonorant [r], e.g OE werian (NE wear); nor did it operate if the consonant was preceded by a long vowel, e.g. OE dēman, mētan (NE deem, meet).
Verner’s Law is often called “grammatical alternation”. The accent in Proto-Indo-European fell on different syllables in certain grammatically related forms. As a result, Germanic languages have different allomorphs in grammatical paradigms which depend upon whether or not Verner’s Law applied. After some time the stress in the Germanic languages has been shifted on the first syllable of the root, and thus the condition under which the law of Verner acted disappeared. As a result, each pair of allophones gave two separate phonemes (f / v → f, v, etc.). As a result voice became a phonological feature. Historical process by which a phonetic difference becomes a difference between phonemes is called phonologization. The significance of Verner’s Law was in the following:
• Verner proved that the First Consonant Shift was a systematic process.
• It played an important role in the further etymological studies.
• Verner’s Law was of great importance for the reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European stress.
There were the following changes in consonants in Old English.
Germanic [k] next to a front vowel was palatalized to [č] - [ʧ], :
cirice ("church"),ceaster ("castle")
ceap ("cheap"), cild ("child")
Germanic [g] in medial or final position was palatalized to [ ǰ ]- [ʤ]:
brycg ("bridge") [ʤ]
Assimslation before t
The sound t when it was preceded by a number of consonants changed the quality of a preceding sound.
Velar+t >ht sēcan- sōcte-sōhte (seek-sought)
Loss of consonants in certain positions
h that was lost in intervocal position, the sounds n and m were lost before h, entailing the lengthening of the preceding vowel.
Bronhter – brōhter (brought), fimf- fif (five)
Metathesis of r
In several OE words the following change of the position of consonants takes place
cons+r+vowel > cons+vowel+r
ðridda- ðirda (third)
Gemination –Lengthening or doubling of consonants in certain positions mostly before [j], [l], [r]
fulian –fyllan (fill), tallian–tellan (tell), salian–sellan (sell)
The consonant h proved to have interfered with the development of many sounds. When h was placed between two vowels the following changes occurred.
a + h+ vowel > ēa slahan – slēan (slay),e + h+ vowel > ēo sehen-sēon (see)
i + h+ vowel > ēo tihan- tēon (accuse), o + h+ vowel > ō fohan-fōn (catch)
To sum up, we come to the conclusion that the Old English phonology was a complex system which underwent a lot of changes and influenced the further development of vowels and consonants in Middle English and Early Modern English periods. This systematized material can be useful for philology students and everyone who is interested in the history of the English language.
1. Бабенко О.В. Історія англійської мови. Навчальний посібник для студентів зі спеціальності 6.020303 «Філологія»:– Видання друге, перероблене і доповнене/ О.В. Бабенко //–К.: ВЦ НУБіП України, 2014. – 334 с.
2. Верба Л.Г. Історія англійської мови. Посібник для студентів та викладачів вищих навчальних закладів/ Л.Г.Верба // –Вінниця: НОВА КНИГА, 2006.– 296 с.

Источник: http://1. Бабенко О.В. Історія англійської мови. Навчальний посібник для студентів зі спеціальності 6.020303 «Філологія»:– Вида
Категория: Английский язык | Добавил: elena14babenko (2015-11-30) | Автор: Бабенко Елена E
Просмотров: 221 | Теги: phonetics, Old English, Grimm’s Law and Verner’s Law, phonology | Рейтинг: 0.0/0
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