NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
ERIC Number: ED526523
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 185
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1245-1972-2
Opacity and Transparency in Phonological Change
Gress-Wright, Jonathan
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania
Final obstruent devoicing is attested in both Middle and Modern High German, and the modern rule is usually assumed to have been directly inherited from the medieval rule without any chronological break (Reichmann & Wegera 1993), despite the fact that the graphic representation of final devoicing ceased in the Early Modern period. However, an alternative account holds that the spelling change reflects the actual loss of the devoicing rule, and that therefore the modern rule has an independent origin (Mihm 2004). In particular, apocope of final schwa has been suggested as the cause of the loss of devoicing in Early Modern German (Kranzmayer 1956), which, if true, aligns developments in German with contemporary developments in Yiddish (King 1980). Loss of devoicing in Yiddish supposedly occurred because schwa apocope rendered the devoicing rule opaque, and hence hard to learn (Kiparsky 1972). If schwa apocope is the cause of the loss of final devoicing in Early Modern German as well, then we expect to see some evidence for opaque devoicing during the period that apocope was in progress, which is precisely what we find. A statistically significant correlation between apocope and absence of final devoicing can be shown for a number of German texts of the 14th and 15 th centuries, i.e. words that never had final schwa still tend to show devoicing, while words that formerly had a final vowel tend not to show devoicing. After the 15th century, devoicing is lost across the board, which correlates with the completion of schwa apocope and the loss of the opaque devoicing rule. This confirms our theoretical predictions. If apocope had not rendered devoicing opaque, we would have to conclude that Early Modern German schwa apocope was an instance of "rule insertion" (King 1969). However, the structural description of neither apocope nor devoicing leads us to expect insertion (King 1973). Instead, Modern German final devoicing appears to be an instance of rule "re-affirmation" (Hock 1991), which entails that the devoicing rule, though opaque, remained productive in some dialects. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A