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Chapter 7: Historical Linguistics

I. Decide whether each of the following statements is True or False:

1. One of the tasks of the historical linguists is to explore methods to reconstruct linguistic history and establish the relationship between languages.

2. Language change is a gradual and constant process, therefore often indiscernible to speakers of the same generation.

3. The history of the English language is divided into the periods of Old English, Middle English and Modern English.

4. Middle English began with the arrival of Anglo-Saxons, who invaded the British Isles from northern Europe.

5. In Old English, all the nouns are inflected to mark nominative, genitive, dative and accusative cases.

6. In Old English, the verb of a sentence often precedes the subject rather than follows it.

7. A direct consequence of the Renaissance Movement was the revival of French as a literary language.

8. In general, linguistic change in grammar is more noticeable than that in the sound system and the vocabulary of a language.

9. The sound changes include changes in vowel sounds, and in the loss, gain and movement of sounds.

10. The least widely-spread morphological changes in the historical development of English are the loss and addition of affixes.

11. In Old English, the morphosyntactic rule of adjective agreement stipulated that the endings of adjective must agree with the head noun in case, number and gender.

12. The word order of Modern English is more variable than that of Old English.

13. Derivation refers to the process by which new words are formed by the addition of affixes to the roots, stems, or words.

14. “Smog” is a word formed by the word-forming process called acronymy.

15. “fridge” is a word formed by abbreviation.

16. Modern linguists are able to provide a consistent account for the exact causes of all types of language change.

17. Sound assimilation may bring about the loss of one of two phonetically similar syllables in sequence, as in the case of change of “Engla-land” to “England”.

18. Rule elaboration occurs when there is a need to reduce ambiguity and increase communicative clarity or expressiveness.

19. Language change is always a change towards the simplification of language rules

20. The way children acquire the language is one of the causes for language change.

II. Fill in each of the following blanks with one word which begins with the letter given:

21. H________ linguistics is the subfield of linguistics that studies language change.

22. The historical study of language is a d________ study of language rather than a synchronic study.

23. European R________ Movement separates the period of Middle English from that of modern English.

24. An important set of extensive sound changes, which affected 7 long or tense vowels and which led to one of the major discrepancies between phonemic representations of words and morphemes at the end of the Middle English Period, is known as the Great V_______ Shift.

25. A_______ involves the deletion of a word-final vowel segment.

26. A change that involves the insertion of a consonant or vowel sound to the middle of a word is known as e__________.

27. The three sets of consonant shifts that Grimm discovered became known collectively as Grimm s L ____.

28. Sound change as a result of sound movement, known as m_______, involves a reversal in position of two adjoining sound segments.

29. B________ is a process by which new words are formed by taking away the supposed suffixes of exiting words.

30. Semantic b________ refers to the process in which the meaning of a word becomes more general or inclusive than its historically earlier denotation.

31. The original form of a language family that has ceased to exist is called the p_________.

32. Sound a________ refers to the physiological effect of one sound on another. In this process, successive sounds are made identical or similar to one another in terms of place or manner of articulation.

33. In order to reduce the exceptional or irregular morphemes, speakers of a particular language may borrow a rule from one part of the grammar and apply it generally. This phenomenon is called i_________ borrowing.

34. By identifying and comparing similar linguistic forms with similar meanings across related languages, historical linguists reconstruct the proto form in the common ancestral language. This process is called c________ reconstruction.

35. The m ____ rule of adjective agreement has been lost from English.

III. There are four choices following each statement. Mark the choice that can best complete the statement:

36. Historical linguistics explores ________________.

A. the nature of language change                         B. the causes that lead to language change

C. the relationship between languages                  D. all of the above

37. Language change is ______________.

A. universal, continuous and ,to a large extent, regular and systematic

B. continuous, regular, systematic, but not universal

C. universal, continuous, but not regular and systematic

D. always regular and systematic, but not universal and continuous

38. Modern English period starts roughly _____________.

A. from 449 to 1100                            B. from 1500 to the present

C. from 1100 to the present                  D. from 1700 to the present

39. Old English dates back to the mid-fifth century when _________.

A. the Norman French invaders under William the Conqueror arrived in England

B. the printing technology was invented

C. Anglo-Saxons invaded the British Isles from northern Europe

D. the Celtic people began to inhabit England

40. Middle English was deeply influenced by ___________.

A. Norman French in vocabulary and grammar

B. Greek and Latin because of the European renaissance movement

C. Danish languages because Denmark placed a king on the throne of England

D. the Celtic people who were the first inhabitants of England

41. Language change is essentially a matter of change ________.

A. in collocations            B. in meaning

C. in grammar                D. in usages

42. In Old and Middle English, both /k/ and /n/ in the word “knight” were pronounced, but in modern English, /k/ in the sound /kn-/ clusters was not pronounced. This phenomenon is known as ________.

A. sound addition               B. sound loss

C. sound shift                   D. sound movement

43. A change that involves the insertion of a consonant or vowel sound to the middle of a word is known as _____.

A. apocope                       B. epenthesis

C. parenthesis                   D. antithesis

44. Segment switch of sound positions can be seen in the example of the modern word “ bird” which comes from the old English word “bridd”. The change of the word from “bridd” to “bird” is a case of _________.

A. metathesis                     B. sound loss

C. sound addition               D. apocope

45. _________ is a process of combining two or more words into one lexical unit.

A. Derivation                      B. Blending

C. Compounding                 D. Abbreviation

46. “Wife”, which used to refer to any woman, stands for “ a married woman” in modern English. This phenomenon is known as ________.

A. semantic shift                  B. semantic broadening

C. semantic elevation            D. semantic narrowing

47. English language belongs to _________.

A. Indo-European Family            B. Sino-Tibetan Family

C. Austronesian Family               D. Afroasiatic Family

48. By analogy to the plural formation of the word “dog-s”, speakers started saying “cows” as the plural of “cow” instead of the earlier plural “kine”. This is the case of _________.

A. elaboration                            B. external borrowing

C. sound assimilation                  D. internal borrowing

49. Morphologcial changes can involve __________.

A. the loss of morphological rules

B. the addition of morphological rules

C. the alteration of morphological rules

D. all of the above

50. The most dramatic morphological loss concerns the loss of ________.

A. comparative markers                      B. tense markers

C. gender and case markers                D. none of the above

IV. Define the following terms:

51. Apocope                 52. Metathesis                   53. Derivation

54. back-formation        55. semantic narrowing      56.protolanguage

57. haplology                 58. epenthesis                   59. Compounding

60. Blending                   61. semantic broadening     62. semantic shift

63. Great Vowel Shift      64. acronym                     65. sound assimilation

V. Answer the following questions:

66. What is the purpose or significance of the historical study of language ?

67. What are the characteristics of the nature of language change ?

68. What are the major periods in the history of English ?

69. As language changes over time, the meaning of a word may deviate from its original denotation. Discuss the major types of semantic changes.

70. Over the years from Old English period to the Modern English period, English has undergone some major sound changes. Illustrate these changes with some examples.

71. What are the most widely-spread morphological changes in the historical development of English ?

72. What are the causes of language change Discuss them in detail.