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Jespersen’s Cycle in German from the phonological perspective of syllable and word languages

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Abstract

This chapter deals with the phonological aspect of Jespersen&#8217;s Cycle in German. This is the process whereby the older, Germanic negator <i>ni</i> was replaced by the more recent particle <i>niht</i> during the Middle High German period. At the same time, German changed from a syllable language to a word language. This typological shift was primarily a result of the replacement of the phonological syllable by the phonological word as the central prosodic domain. The tendency towards optimization of the phonological word involved many processes, including vowel reduction and deletion. Unstressed pretonic syllables such as the Middle High German preverbal negation marker <i>ne/en</i> were affected by this prosodic restructuring. I argue that this typological change was an additional factor that set Jespersen&#8217;s Cycle in motion in German.

References

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