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Philology: the Role of Written Records

Philology: the Role of Written Records

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Philology: the Role of Written Records

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  1. Philology:the Role of Written Records Chapter 14 of Campbell’s Historical Linguistics, pp. 361-377

  2. Philology: the Role of Written Records • 14.1 Introduction • 14.2 Philology • 14.3 Examples of What Philology Can Contribute • 14.4 The Role of Writing • 14.5 Getting Historical Linguistic Information from Written Sources • 14.6 Exercises

  3. 14.1 Introduction • Philology is the investigation of written forms of earlier stages of languages in order to determine aspects of that language’s history.

  4. 14.2 Philology • Philology can help in many ways: • Documenting sound changes • Distinguishing inherited from borrowed material • Understanding changes in the writing system and orthographic conventions • Subgrouping • Identifying extinct languages

  5. 14.3 Examples of What Philology Can Contribute • First example: • Proto-Mayan contrasted between /*x/ and /*h/ • The Motul Dictionary of Yucatec (dated c. 1590) still distinguishes between the two • Therefore, the *x, *h > h merger occurred after 1590, so after European contact.

  6. Second example • Huastec, another Mayan language, has contrastive kw (labialized velar stop) and kw’(glottalized labialized velar stop) • Some have thought Proto-Mayan must have these contrastive phonemes • However, study of certain 18th century records shows that this change occurred some time after they were written

  7. 14.4 The Role of Writing • Comparative reconstruction of unwritten languages is possible, attested data is preferable • In order to be useful, written records must be analyzed to determine the underlying phonetic and phonemic system • Pre-Neogrammarian, written records had a special status as artifacts of a more perfect historical stage of a language • Post-Neogrammarian, it was realized that language undergoes change during all periods of its history, and for purposes of reconstruction, the usage of written texts has been downplayed

  8. 14.5 Getting Historical Linguistic Information from Written Sources • Getting at the phonetic and phonemic information behind a written text is of primary importance to using it for reconstruction

  9. Clues to a written text’s underlying phonetic and phonemic content • Rhymes and the testimony of poetry • In Middle English, night rhymes with wight, but not with white. • Occasional spellings • Variation such ascredyll/cradeland teke/take show the change in pronunciation from /a/ to /e(i)/

  10. Interpretation from material from foreign languages • The principle source of information about Gothic is a Bible translation from the 4th century • It was found that the orthography was based on the Greek at that time • This was verified by the spelling of proper nouns whose source spelling and pronunciation was known: Aílisabaíð ‘Elizabeth’; praúfetus ‘prophet’; Gaúmaúrra ‘Gomorrah’

  11. The Codex Argenteus, "Silver Book“:(

  12. Clues from related languages • German /naxt/ and similar sounding Dutch and Frisian pronunciations of their word for “night” support the conjecture that the ME pronunciation of night had a /x/ • Problems with attempts to recover phonetic and phonemic material from written texts: • The writing system may under-represent phonetic contrasts • Writing tends to preserve representations of features that have been lost in the spoken language (e.g., spelling may not represent even the pronunciation at the time) • Poetic license may distort the regular syntax and usage • Translations often contain calques, grammatical distortions, etc. that do not accurately represent the language

  13. 14.6 Exercises • 14.1 Philological analysis of Latin Appendix Probi • 14.2 Greek philological comparison • 14.3 Spanish philological interpretation