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On Morphological Realignments in Old English Root Nouns

Authors


  •  I would like to express my gratitude to the Hertie Foundation (Gemeinnützige Hertie-Stiftung) for its generous support of the research for this paper. I am also very grateful to Professor Arjen P. Versloot for his insightful and detailed commentary on an earlier version of the paper. Finally, I am indebted to the anonymous reviewers for their critical and valuable suggestions which certainly helped improve the quality of the paper.

Faculty of English,
Adam Mickiewicz University
Al. Niepodległości 4
61-874 Poznań
Poland
Email: adame@ifa.amu.edu.pl

Abstract

The present paper addresses the issue of gradual reorganisation of the early English nominal inflection, effected by an interplay of phonological and morphological factors, which led to a complete overhaul of the system inherited from Proto-Germanic. One of minor classes which fell victim to the process of analogical restructuring was a group of root nouns which tended to fluctuate between inherited and innovative paradigmatic patterns. The attested vacillation of forms testifies to the presence of disintegrative tendencies in their paradigms. The aim of the present study is to track the pattern behind the dissemination of these tendencies, as well as to explore the extent to which the inherited paradigm disintegrated, forsaking the original inflection to the benefit of the productive declensional types. The significance of factors such as frequency of occurrence, productivity of inflectional patterns, or gender affiliation is recognised, with a view to investigating the mechanism of the restructuring process and its theoretical implications. The findings of the investigation reveal that the paradigm of root nouns, albeit not free from the impact of the productive inflection, was to a large extent preserved intact, and, when compared to other minor declensional classes, can be considered relatively conservative.

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