Aspects of the historical phonology of Manx
Lewin, Christopher Paul
This thesis elucidates some of the hitherto poorly understood aspects of the diachronic development of Manx phonology. By tracing phonological changes from earlier varieties of Gaelic, and within the attested period of written and recorded Manx, it frames these developments within the wider contexts of Gaelic dialectology and historical linguistics. Manx provides an important source for understanding the linguistic development of the Gaelic languages. A lack of systematic treatments and reliable datasets for the language, however, has obscured this fact and led to its neglect within Gaelic studies. The thesis focuses, in particular, on the development of the language’s prosody, suprasegmental features, vowel system and sonorants, the latter having a particular bearing on vowels. Five principal methodologies are deployed to investigate these topics: • Re-evaluation of existing descriptions and datasets provided by previous scholarship, especially those collected by Rhŷs in the 1880s and 1890s, and material from the last generation of speakers presented by Broderick in his Handbook of Late Spoken Manx. • Interpretation of the evidence of the two main Manx orthographies and nonstandard variations thereof. • Analyses based, as far as possible, on the whole attested lexis of the language, making use of Cregeen’s and Kelly’s dictionaries. • Quantitative approaches to all of these sources of data where appropriate. • Instrumental phonetic analysis of recordings of the terminal speakers of Manx. Chapter one places Manx in its historical and dialectological context, reviews previous scholarship, discusses the primary sources, and introduces the interpretative difficulties of the orthographies. Chapter two examines developments in the short and long vowels, and the impact of the consonant system on vowel changes. Chapter three examines the development of the vowels ao(i) /əː/ and ua(i) /uə̯/ in Manx. The written evidence, description and recorded data are complex, and some scholars have claimed that these vowels fell together with one another and with other vowels. It will be shown that these vowels in fact remained contrastive for the most part in Late Manx. Chapter four investigates developments in the sonorant consonants, especially the R, L and N phones. Changes in vowels preceding historically tense sonorants are also examined, as well as the origins and spread of the phenomenon of preocclusion. Chapter five examines suprasegmental and prosodic features including stress shift, unstressed long vowel shortening, and the conditioning factors for these. Chapter six provides concluding remarks assessing the thesis’ contribution to current scholarship, and the prospects for future research.