History of English at Universität Wien

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Which 4 types of evidence do we have for historical stages?

Exemplary flashcards for History of English at the Universität Wien on StudySmarter:

What are examples for metalinguistic evidence?

Exemplary flashcards for History of English at the Universität Wien on StudySmarter:

Define 'Comparative reconstruction'!

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What's a cognate?

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What aims comparative reconstruction to do? Name two principles regarding this aim!

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What is internal reconstruction?

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What is the prehistory of English? (roots, tree diagram)

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Exemplary flashcards for History of English at the Universität Wien on StudySmarter:

Why don't we have linguistic evidence from PIE? And how do we then know where it comes from?

Exemplary flashcards for History of English at the Universität Wien on StudySmarter:

What is Grimm's Law (First Germanic Consonant Shift)?

Exemplary flashcards for History of English at the Universität Wien on StudySmarter:

Which Germanic innovations exist in terms of their separation from other Indo-European languages?

Exemplary flashcards for History of English at the Universität Wien on StudySmarter:

What is the 'Fixed Root Initial Stress'?

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What is a Weak Past Tense?

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Exemplary flashcards for History of English at the Universität Wien on StudySmarter:

History of English

Which 4 types of evidence do we have for historical stages?

1) Linguistic (textual) evidence

2) Metalinguistic evidence

3) Comparative reconstruction

4) Internal reconstruction

History of English

What are examples for metalinguistic evidence?

Old grammar books and dictionaries

History of English

Define 'Comparative reconstruction'!

Similarities between words in different languages point to common ancestry. Ancestor languages can be reconstructed by comparison.

History of English

What's a cognate?

Words from different languages displaying similarities in terms of form and meaning due to common ancestry (as opposed to eg borrowing) = data for comparative reconstruction

History of English

What aims comparative reconstruction to do? Name two principles regarding this aim!

It aims to detect regular correspondences between speech sounds.


-> Naturalness Principle (some sound changes more natural...e.g. vowel nasalisation plus nasal deletion)

-> Majority Principle: Change is (supposed to be) rarer than non-change (i.e parallel changes in related languages are unlikely)

History of English

What is internal reconstruction?

A method for reconstructing earlier language stages that relies on comparative data from within one language

History of English

What is the prehistory of English? (roots, tree diagram)

PIE --> Germanic --> West Germanic --> Old English --> Middle English --> Modern English

History of English

Why don't we have linguistic evidence from PIE? And how do we then know where it comes from?

  • Too far back in time --> nobody wrote stuff up back then
  • Many of the words that have survived from PIE describe a setting (landscape , flora & fauna) that could've existed in the are north of the Black Sea.
  • (e.g. domestication of horse and certain techniques for agriculture)

History of English

What is Grimm's Law (First Germanic Consonant Shift)?

Regular sound change which affected the PIE plosive consonant inventory


  • voiceless plosives -> voiceless fricatives
  • voiced plosives --> voiceless plosive
  • "bh" --> b

History of English

Which Germanic innovations exist in terms of their separation from other Indo-European languages?

  • Grimm's Law
  • Fixed Root-Initial Stress
  • Weak Past Tense
  • Weak Adjectival Inflection

History of English

What is the 'Fixed Root Initial Stress'?

Development of a strong stress on first syllable of the root, leading to phonological reduction in other syllables

History of English

What is a Weak Past Tense?

Class of verbs for which past tense is indicated by dental suffix (instead of vowel alternation)

eg loved (lufode), bought (brothe) kept (cepte)

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