Trisyllabic laxing

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Trisyllabic laxing, or trisyllabic shortening, is any of three processes in English in which tense vowels (long vowels or diphthongs) become lax (short monophthongs) if they are followed by two syllables, the first of which syllable is unstressed:

  1. The earliest occurrence of trisyllabic laxing occurred in late Old English and caused stressed long vowels to become shortened before clusters of two consonants when two or more syllables followed.
  2. Later in Middle English, the process was expanded to all vowels when two or more syllables followed.
  3. The Middle English sound change remained in the language and is still a mostly-productive process in Modern English, detailed in Chomsky and Halle's Sound Pattern of English.

The Middle English sound change occurred before the Great Vowel Shift and other changes to the nature of vowels. As a result of the changes, the pairs of vowels related by trisyllabic laxing often bear little resemblance to one another in Modern English; however, originally they always bore a consistent relationship. For example, tense /aʊ/ was [uː], and lax /ʌ/ was [u] at the time of trisyllabic laxing.

In some cases, trisyllabic laxing appears to take place when it should not have done so: for example, in "south" vs. "southern". In such cases, the apparent anomaly is caused by later sound changes: "southern" was pronounced [suːðernə] when trisyllabic laxing applied.

In the modern language, there are systematic exceptions to the process, such as in words ending in -ness: mindfulness, loneliness". There are also occasional, non-systematic exceptions such as "obese, obesity" (/oʊˈbiːsɨti/, not */oʊˈbɛsɨti/).

Tense
vowel
Lax
vowel
Change in
Middle English
Example IPA
ɛ eː → e
ɛː → e
serene, serenity; impede, impediment /sᵻˈrn, sᵻˈrɛn.ᵻ.ti/; /ɪmˈpd ɪmˈpɛd.ᵻ.mənt/
æ aː → a profane, profanity; grateful, gratitude /proʊˈfn proʊˈfæn.ᵻ.ti/; /ˈɡrt.fᵿl ˈɡræt.ᵻ.tjuːd/
ɪ iː → i divine, divinity; derive, derivative /dᵻˈvn dᵻˈvɪn.ᵻ.ti/; /dᵻˈrv dᵻˈrɪv.ə.tɪv/
ʌ uː → u profound, profundity; pronounce, pronunciation; south, southern (ME southerne) /proʊˈfnd proʊˈfʌn.dᵻ.ti/; /proʊˈnns proʊˌnʌn.si.ˈeɪ.ʃən/; /ˈsθ ˈsʌðərn/
ɒ oː → o school, scholarly /ˈskl ˈskɒl.ər.li/
ɒ ɔː → o provoke, provocative; sole, solitude /proʊˈvk proʊˈvɒk.ə.tɪv/; /ˈsl ˈsɒl.ᵻ.tjuːd/

Sources

  • Blake, Norman, ed. (1992). The Cambridge history of the English language. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 71–73. ISBN 9780521264754. 
  • Chomsky, Noam; Halle, Morris (1968). The sound pattern of English. New York: Harper & Row. 
  • Cummings, D. W. (1988). American English Spelling: An Informal Description. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 131–141. 
  • Lahiri, Aditi; Fikkert, Paula (1999). "Trisyllabic shortening in English: past and present" (PDF). English Language and Linguistics. 3 (2): 229–267. 
  • Wells, John C. (1982). Accents of English. 1: An introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 187–188. 
Retrieved from "https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Trisyllabic_laxing&oldid=790445777"
This content was retrieved from Wikipedia : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trisyllabic_laxing
This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article "Trisyllabic laxing"; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA