Chain shift

In historical linguistics, a chain shift is a set of sound changes in which the change in pronunciation of one speech sound (typically, a phoneme) is linked to, and presumably causes, a change in pronunciation of other sounds as well.[1] The sounds involved in a chain shift can be ordered into a "chain" in such a way that after the change is complete, each phoneme ends up sounding like what the phoneme before it in the chain sounded like before the change.[specify] The changes making up a chain shift, interpreted as rules of phonology, are in what is termed counterfeeding order.[clarification needed]

A well-known example is the Great Vowel Shift, which was a chain shift that affected all of the long vowels in Middle English.[2] The changes to the front vowels may be summarized as follows:

ae:i:

A drag chain or pull chain is a chain shift in which the phoneme at the "leading" edge of the chain changes first.[3] In the example above, the chain shift would be a pull chain if /i:/ changed to /aɪ/ first, opening up a space at the position of [i], which /e:/ then moved to fill. A push chain is a chain shift in which the phoneme at the "end" of the chain moves first: in this example, if /a/ moved toward [e], a "crowding" effect would be created and /e:/ would thus move toward [i], and so forth.[3] It is not known which phonemes changed first during the Great Vowel Shift; many scholars believe the high vowels such as /i:/ started the shift, but some suggest that the low vowels, such as /a/, may have shifted first.[4]

  1. ^ Murray, Robert (2001). "Historical linguistics: The study of language change". In W. O'Grady; J. Archibald; M. Aronoff; J. Rees-Miller (eds.). Contemporary Linguistics An Introduction. Bedford St. Martin. pp. 287–346. ISBN 0-312-24738-9.
  2. ^ Fromkin, Victoria; Rodman, Robert (1993). An Introduction to Language. Harcourt Brace. pp. 326–327. ISBN 0-03-054983-3.
  3. ^ a b Łubowicz, Anna (2011). "Chain shifts". The Blackwell Companion to Phonology. pp. 1–19. doi:10.1002/9781444335262.wbctp0073. ISBN 9781444335262.
  4. ^ Winkler, Elizabeth Grace (2007). Understanding Language. London: Continuum. p. 187. ISBN 978-0-8264-84826.

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