Origin of some English orthography inconsistencies

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ɶʙ ɞʛ
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Origin of some English orthography inconsistencies

Post by ɶʙ ɞʛ »

Did this happen at some point for English?
800 > 1300 > 1700 > 2000
<ow> /ou/ > /u:/ > /au/ > /au/ (as in <now>)
<ow> /ɔu/ > /o:/ > /ou/ > /əʉ/, or /ɞu/ in North America (as in <low>)
<aw> /au/ > /ɒo/ > /ɔ:/ > /o:/, or /ɒ:~a:/ in North America

Salmoneus
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Re: Origin of some English orthography inconsistencies

Post by Salmoneus »

ɶʙ ɞʛ wrote:
15 Nov 2019 22:52
Did this happen at some point for English?
You do know about wikipedia and the like, yes?
800 > 1300 > 1700 > 2000
<ow> /ou/ > /u:/ > /au/ > /au/ (as in <now>)
No. /au/ is from /u:/. I can't think of any words with original /ou/ in them. In "now", "bow" and "how", the Old English had /u:/ (nu:, bu:gen, hu:). The spelling with -w is presumably to make the length clear in word-final position (and perhaps to mark incipient diphthongisation). The reason it's spelled -ow rather than -uw is presumably the usual prohibition against having strings of -uuu- in words ('w' being formerly just 'uu'). Cf. the 'wo' in 'woman', 'womb', etc.
<ow> /ɔu/ > /o:/ > /ou/ > /əʉ/, or /ɞu/ in North America (as in <low>)[/quote]
Unnecessarily complication transcription there! And again, no. First, I don't think the diphthong is believed to have existed as such in Old English. So your first stage there should be more like... 1100? 1200? Your second stage didn't happen, because then it would have merged with long /o/. It raised to /ou/... 1600? During the 18th and 19th century it THEN merged with long /o/ in some dialects (it remains distinct in others), but probably only because long /o/ was already diphthongised.
<aw> /au/ > /ɒo/ > /ɔ:/ > /o:/, or /ɒ:~a:/ in North America
Your first stage again should be middle english, not old english. Your second stage never happened. And I don't understand what you mean at the end there, because it never become /o:/ in most non-American dialects.

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Ser
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Re: Origin of some English orthography inconsistencies

Post by Ser »

ɶʙ ɞʛ wrote:
15 Nov 2019 22:52
Did this happen at some point for English?
800 > 1300 > 1700 > 2000
<ow> /ou/ > /u:/ > /au/ > /au/ (as in <now>)
<ow> /ɔu/ > /o:/ > /ou/ > /əʉ/, or /ɞu/ in North America (as in <low>)
<aw> /au/ > /ɒo/ > /ɔ:/ > /o:/, or /ɒ:~a:/ in North America
No.

More like:
800 > 1300 > 1700 > 2000

** ow [aʊ] **
[u:] > [uw] > [ɐw] > [aʊ] (e.g. nū > now, ūle > owl)
[u:ɣ] > [uwɣ uw] > [ɐw] > [aʊ] (e.g. būgan > to bow)
[uɣ] > [uɣ uw] > [ɐw] > [aʊ] (e.g. sugu > a sow)

** ow US [oʊ], UK [əʊ] **
[o:w] > [ɔw] > [ow] > [oʊ əʊ] (e.g. grōwan > grow)
[ɑ:w] > [ɔw] > [ow] > [oʊ əʊ] (e.g. snāw > snow, sāwan > to sow)
[oɣ] > [ɔɣ ɔw] > [ow] > [oʊ əʊ] (e.g. bogan > a bow)
[ɑ:ɣ] > [ɔwɣ ɔw] > [ow] > [oʊ əʊ] (e.g. āgan > owe)

** aw US [ɑ ɔ], UK [ɔ:] **
[ɑw] > [aw] > [ɔ:] > [ɑ ɔ ɔ:] (e.g. clawu > claw)
[ɑɣ] > [aɣ aw] > [ɔ:] > [ɑ ɔ ɔ:] (e.g. lagu > law, dragan > draw)
[ɑv] > [aw] > [ɔ:] > [ɑ ɔ ɔ:] (e.g. hafoc > hawk, irregular development cf. nafola > navel)
[æ:ɑw] > [aw] > [ɔ:] > [ɑ ɔ ɔ:] (e.g. strēaw > straw, hrēaw > raw)

Note that, just as often, 800 [æ:ɑw] becomes 1300 [ɛu] and modern [(j)u:], e.g. scrēawa > shrew, dēaw > dew, scēawian > early modern show/shew.
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ɶʙ ɞʛ
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Re: Origin of some English orthography inconsistencies

Post by ɶʙ ɞʛ »

Thank you for giving such a detailed description. That also explains the <gh> being pronounced as /f/ sometimes, as word-final [x] > [xʷ] > [f] irregularly after rounded vowels.

Also, in 1700, the long o was generally [ou]. Most of southern England, as well as RP today, might have [əʉ] and [ʉ:] for long u, with being only allophonic. Northern England is probably more likely to have [əu] and [u:], although [ʉ] might appear next to /j/. In the US/Canada, the [ou] remained fully rounded, and in 21st century Standard American (at least in Denver) the onset has lowered and centralized. Some dialects have more eccentric realizations, such as [ɔu œʉ]. /əu/ is a sufficient transcription for most though.

Before /lC/, if /C/ is voiceless, the long o shortened in Standard American, e.g. colt [kɞɫt].

In 19th century RP, the <aw> vowel was [ɔ:]. Now I think it is showing raising tendencies, more in Aus/NZ (usually close-mid, one of my family's friends came from NZ) than in England (usually true-mid). Some dialects keep [ɔ:] though. In US/Canada, the short o had shifted from [ɒ] to [ɑ] in the 18th-19th centuries, and is now fronting somewhat. Also, the caught-cot merger is not universal in US/Canada, which was why I put /ɒ:~a:/ in the original post. In these dialects it never shifted to [o:].

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Re: Origin of some English orthography inconsistencies

Post by Zekoslav »

Re: Old English <ēaw> sometimes giving Middle English <ew> and sometimes Middle English <aw>. Could that be due to analogical processes withing Old English itself? Ringe deals with it in his book on history of English, but I only vaguely remember the details. Basically Proto-Germanic *au (tautosyllabic) gives Old English ēa, while Proto-Germanic *aw (heterosyllabic) gives Old English aw. So Proto-Germanic *hrawaz > Proto-West Germanic *hrau (strong declension nominative) would actually give *hrēa, while Proto-Germanic *hrawô (weak declension nominative) would actually give *hrawa. To get to Old English forms, ēa from the weak declension nominative was levelled instead of a in the weak declension nominative (*hrawa > hrēawa after *hrēa), and w was introduced into the strong declension nominative from the weak declension nominative (*hrēa > hrēaw after hrēawa). This of course holds for all other case forms ending in a consonant/zero ending vs. those ending in a vowel.

Now, it's conceivable that in those dialects of Old English preceding Middle English, a was levelled instead of ea in some words, resulting in the double reflex. Then again it may be just another case of irregular sound change.
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