Contributions to journals
Most handbooks and grammars contend that in Old English the voiced fricatives [v, ð, z] were merely allophones of /f, θ, s/ in sonorous environments. How these voiced fricatives became phonemes is debated among scholars. In this article, all previous accounts are critically reviewed. A new proposal is then presented, which explains the facts in a more direct way than previous theses. I argue that phonemicisation of a previous allophonic voice alternation in fricatives had already taken place in many areas of Anglo-Saxon England through language contact with Brittonic. Voiceless as well as voiced fricative phonemes existed in Brittonic at the time of contact, and language shift would have led directly to the phonemicisation of the previous allophonic variation found in early Old English.
The most common dialectal alternative to the Modern English comparative particle than is a negative form with variants such as ne, na, and nor, e.g. You’re my son – more to me nor any son (Dickens, Great Expectations ii. xx). This paper presents a detailed historical survey of this dialectal usage in varieties of British and Irish English, and offers an assessment of its regional distribution since the medieval period. The paper also investigates the possible origins of the form, first highlighting some problems of previous analyses, before comparing and contrasting the use of negation in comparative constructions in French and Insular Celtic. The evidence strongly suggests that the negative comparative particle in English should be seen as an areal feature of the British Isles, and that language contact with Celtic lies at the root of it.