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Title:Anomaly and Analogy: On the Function of Vowel Mutation in the History of Icelandic Nominal Morphology
Author(s):Spencer, Norman Robert
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Antonsen, Elmer H.
Department / Program:German
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Language, Linguistics
Abstract:The distribution of the reflexes of vowel mutation or umlaut is one of the most vexing anomalies in Germanic linguistics. Parallel to the changes in linguistic method that have taken place over the years, various explanations have been proposed. Yet the problem of umlaut has defied solution. Such is particularly true in the case of umlaut in the Scandinavian languages. Recent transformational-generative attempts to explain the origin and distribution of umlaut in Icelandic nominal morphology are discussed. Although seen to possess internal elegance, they suffer from two problems: the inability to distinguish origin from reflex, and the failure to take into consideration the function of mutation in marking morphological functions, in the case of Icelandic nouns, derivation and inflection. With regard to umlaut in Icelandic, there is a need to answer two separate questions, namely, 'what functions do mutated vowels have in Icelandic nominal morphology?' and 'how could these mutated vowels have come to have those functions?' There is also a need to distinguish (following Coseriu) a change in the SYSTEM from one in the NORM.
Vowel mutation is seen to have specific functions in the derivation and inflection of Icelandic nouns. The unaugmented stems of one syllable, traditionally called thematic stems, are seen to be root-stems inflected according to one or more of certain paradigm types. Among the paradigm types only the root- and the u-types are characterized by i-mutation. Changes in Icelandic nominal morphology over time are seen to be changes in the NORM rather than in the SYSTEM.
The SYSTEM of derivation and inflection in Old Icelandic represents a decisive break from that of Northwest Germanic with regard to the explicit marking of derivation. Characteristic of the pre-Scandinavian SYSTEM are thematic stem-classes. In the context of this SYSTEM mutated vowels arose. In Old Icelandic, the unaugmented thematic stem-classes have been replaced by paradigm-classes in which mutated vowels have certain functions. Far from descending from the stem-classes of Northwest Germanic by strict application of sound law, the paradigm-classes of Old Icelandic show evidence of earlier widespread syncretism and paradigmatic leveling.
Issue Date:1988
Description:206 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1988.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8823254
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-17
Date Deposited:1988

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