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Free Content The Chronology of the Development of Brittonic Stops and the Spirant Mutation

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The 'standard' account of the development of the Neo-Brittonic fricatives which are written in Welsh as ff, ph, th, ch, is that of Jackson's Language and History in Early Britain, which traces these sounds historically to geminates *pp, *tt, *kk, in Brittonic and Celtic, and Latin pp, tt, cc in loans (with phonological adjustments, these comments apply equally to Cornish and Breton). However, this 'standard' account has been a minority view for some decades. It was challenged early by David Greene, who was followed at various intervals by Anthony Harvey, Peter Wynn Thomas and Patrick Sims-Williams. Although these scholars have presented analyses which differ to a greater or lesser extent from one another, they nevertheless have in common the rejection of the LHEB account, in particular, the tracing of the Welsh spirants directly to old geminates. They see instead various separate changes in relative chronology, including the simplification of the geminates to the corresponding simple stops. I have upheld an LHEB-type analysis in previous work, and in the present paper will show in greater detail, 1) why the revisionist view is false (false predictions of how the attested forms should turn out), and 2) elaborate on the actual mechanisms involved in the development of Neo-Brittonic consonants, emphasizing the nature of phonology as a cognitive system of knowledge, rather than a physical system of sounds and articulations.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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  • The Journal of Celtic Linguistics publishes articles and reviews on all aspects of the linguistics of the Celtic languages, modern, medieval and ancient, with particular emphasis on synchronic studies, while not excluding diachronic and comparative-historical work. This journal is of great interest to students of languages and Celtic studies, as well as members of the general public interested in the linguistic progression within Celtic languages and linguistic history. The editor is Lecturer in the Welsh Department at Aberystwyth University, and is supported by an editorial board including representatives from Oxford and Cambridge universities, and from universities across Europe and North America. Papers are invited in English, French or German on all fields/‘levels’ of analysis; phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics; formal or functional, cross-language typological or language-internal, dialectological or sociolinguistic, any theoretical paradigm.

    Mae’r Journal of Celtic Linguistics yn cynnwys erthyglau ac adolygiadau ar bob agwedd ar ieithoedd Celtaidd - modern, canoloesol a hynafol - gyda phwyslais arbennig ar astudiaethau syncronig, a heb eithrio gwaith diacronig a hanesyddol-gymharol. Y mae’r cyfnodolyn hwn yn ddefnyddiol i fyfyrwyr sydd yn astudio ieithoedd ac astudiaethau Celtaidd, yn ogystal â darllenwyr sy’n ymddiddori yn hanes datblygiadau’r ieithoedd Celtaidd. Mae’r golygydd yn Ddarlithydd yn Adran y Gymraeg, Prifysgol Aberystwyth, ac yn cydweithio â’r bwrdd golygyddol sydd â chynrychiolaeth o brifysgolion Rhydychen, Caergrawnt, ac o brifysgolion ledled Ewrop a Gogledd America.

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