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Old English Pre-Cluster Lengthening as Compensatory Lengthening?

László Kristó


This presentation aims at a Strict CV analysis of Old English Pre-Cluster Lengthening (PCL), which affected short stressed vowels before a homorganic cluster of a sonorant + voiced stop. Examples include feld ‘field’ > fēld, climban ‘to climb’ > clīmban, hund ‘dog’ > hūnd, song ‘song’ > sōng, word ‘word’ > wōrd, etc. The change is somewhat odd, since it creates superheavy syllables, which otherwise tend to be avoided in the language. I will attempt to come up with a tentative analysis according to which PCL can be thought of as an instance of Compensatory Lengthening which takes place due to the reinterpretation of the status of the lengthening clusters. It will be pointed out that such an analysis is made possible by the theoretical machinery employed in Strict CV.