The order and schedule of nominal plural formation transfer in three Southern dialects of Early Middle English*

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The general history of the nominal plural formations in English has been widely known, but there has been little investigation about how the spread of the <i>s</i>-plural during the Early Middle English period proceeded in dialects of England. The way that the spread of -<i>s</i> was late and slow in the southern dialects is particularly interesting in terms of the contrast they make with the northern dialects as well as in terms of the theory of lexical diffusion. Based on a large number of examples collected from texts for quantification, the present paper makes an enquiry into the order and schedule along which the <i>s</i>-plural spread at the expense of other plural formations in the southern dialects. It also attempts to propose a fresh view of lexical diffusion as a bundle of overlapping S-curves.


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