Little Words in Early Germanic

01 October 2021 → 30 September 2024
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Comparative language studies
    • English language
    • German language
    • Historical linguistics
    • Phonetics and phonology
Phonology Clitics Germanic Linguistics
Project description

This project will establish the phonological status of ‘little words’ – clitics and clitic-like elements – in the early Germanic languages by combining insights from theoretical prosodic linguistics and advances in descriptive Germanic philology. Using evidence from the metres of alliterative verse, combined with non-metrical evidence from orthographic accent marks and linguistic developments, I will examine clitics in several early Germanic languages along several axes, including how closely they are connected to stressed host words, and whether they are proclitics or enclitics. I will assess the possibility of the promotion of little words to be independent prosodic words, and potential hosts for further clitics. After developing a profile of phonological clitic behaviour in four early Germanic languages (early Old English, Old Saxon, classical Old Norse, and late Old High German), I will provide a diachronic account of the development of clitic systems in this language family. This synthesis will concentrate on patterns of divergence from the oldest Germanic (represented by existing work on the early-attested Gothic language), such as the rise of enclitics in Old Norse, and the possible greater independence of clitic elements in the more southerly languages of Old Saxon and Old High German.