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ContactThe Interaction of Closely Related Linguistic Varieties and the History of English$
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Robert McColl Millar

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781474409087

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474409087.001.0001

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English in the ‘transition period’: the sources of contact-induced change

English in the ‘transition period’: the sources of contact-induced change

(p.124) 5 English in the ‘transition period’: the sources of contact-induced change

Robert McColl Millar

Edinburgh University Press

Perhaps the central chapter of Contact, we focus here on the rapid and radical changes English passed through in relation to inflectional morphology (in particular but not exclusively in the noun phrase) in the later Old English and early Middle English periods. Comparison is made to other Germanic languages; the concept of drift is introduced. Theories for why these changes occurred and why the changes took place where, when and how they did are considered, with particular focus on earlier contact explanations. Recent proposals that bilingualism with Celtic languages was the primary impetus for the changes are critiqued. It is suggested that, while Celtic influence should not be dismissed, it is contact between Old English and Old Norse in the North of England which acted as catalyst. This contact is seen as a koine whose origin is markedly similar to that postulated for modern new dialects.

Keywords:   English, Old English, Middle English, Contact Linguistics, Historical Linguistics, Sociolinguistics, Koineisation, Peter Trudgill

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