Geminate reduction and high vowel syncope in West Saxon weak past participles

Penelope Jane Scott*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


High vowel syncope, when applying in Old English past participles, is expected only to affect those that (a) contain a heavy root syllable, and (b) are inflected. However, numerous exceptions are noted in traditional handbooks (e.g. Campbell 1959). In particular, West Saxon displays a process by which high vowel syncope over-applies in weak Class 1 past participles with roots ending in t/d, with deletion occurring after light syllables, as in settan 'set' set+ed+um(Past.Part.Dat.) → settum, and also in uninflected participles: seted → sett. The root-final dental and the stem-forming -ed come together following deletion to form a geminate: læded+e 'led' → lædde. However, phonological pressures cause the geminates to be simplified in certain environments. This paper focuses on the interaction of high vowel syncope and degemination, and aims to provide a synchronic account of both processes, arguing that deletion in dental-final forms is in fact not merely the extension of high vowel syncope. The paper also challenges the view that final geminates are merely orthographic in Old English. The analysis, which is formed within Optimality Theory (OT), is supported by newly collected data for the West Saxon past participles, which are taken from Cosijn's Altwestsächsische Grammatik glossary (1888).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-126
Number of pages22
JournalTransactions of the Philological Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015


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