A typological and quantitative perspective on consonant groups in late Old and early Middle English



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Isolating languages prefer a relatively low presence of consonant combinations in discourse, write Prague School typologists, particularly Vladimir Skalicka.1 This property distinguishes isolating languages from languages o f a predominantly agglutinative and, to a lesser extent, inflectional type. The present paper offers a quantitative perspective on some structural characteristics of consonant groups in Early Middle English, i.e. the period through which English changed more rapidly and extensively than at any later time, acquiring a number of isolating properties in the process. Within the framework of the Prague School typology, the following quantitative analysis aims to compare the situation in English at its final inflectional stage, generally considered rich in consonant combinations, with its changing format after the year 1200 when growing typological isolation should, in accordance with Skalička’s hypothesis, exert a restrictive influence on the frequency and distribution of consonant clusters.


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