#3316. 音変化の要因は第一義的に社会的である[sound_change][phonetics][sociolinguistics][drift][gvs][language_change]


 Prins (267--68) の英語音韻史概説の最後に,音変化についての論考がついている.ちょっとした概説というべきものなのだが,実にすぐれた内容の文章だ.大母音推移 (gvs) を例に説明しており,一級の音変化論となっている.音声学的・構造主義的な要因による音変化もあることは認めつつ,第一義的な要因は社会的なものであると喝破している.その論考の一部ではあるが,とりわけ味読する価値のある部分を抜き出そう.

Though it may be difficult to account for a given change, it is possible to account for the possibility of change as such. Language is a social phenomenon and apart from the psychological causes operative in linguistic phenomena, it is obvious that social causes must have been largely responsible for or instrumental in sound-changes like the Great Vowel Shift in English, to which I shall confine my attention. The fundamental condition which makes sound-changes of this kind possible is the fact that phonemes are not always realized in the same manner by all people and in all circumstances, but that there are generally several allophones. If the phoneme had the unalterable rigidity of the signals, say, of the Morse code, evolution in language would be impossible. Since this is not the case and a certain latitude in the phonetic realization of phonemes is found, a certain allophone in a certain number of words may become the normal phonetic realization, which may then spread to other words and subsequently to all words containing that phoneme. Hence after a lapse of time the phoneme /i:/ may come to be realized as [əɪ] and later as [aɪ] and this may even --- though not necessarily --- affect the organically related back-vowel /u:/, which will then be realized as [əʊ], subsequently [ɑʊ]. Similarly the phoneme /e:/ may come to be realized as [i:], and the corresponding back-vowel /o:/ may --- but need not necessarily --- come to be realized as [u:].
This drift, then, to diphthongization of the high vowels can also be observed in Present Day English, though there is no evidence of the tendency to raise the mid-vowels /eɪ/ and /oʊ/ in PDE. Why the drift or tendency takes that particular direction is difficult to say, but that the change is socially conditioned is obvious. Such a tendency is often held in check or prevented by a strong formal tradition as observed in schools or universities or influential educated sections of the population, but when such traditions are weakened owing to social upheavals like domestic wars or internal migration or the mixing of population groups or the rise into power of other classes, such tendencies may spread and what was at one time a vulgar, regional or dialectal pronunciation may become the standard. This would also account for the fact that though linguistic change is a continuous process, there are periods when it is definitely accelerated. These will be found to coalesce with periods of social change, when standards of pronunciation break down. The result is a so-called independent sound-change. These few remarks must suffice here. A full discussion of the problem would require a book in itself.


 ・ Prins, A. A. A History of English Phonemes. 2nd ed. Leiden: Leiden UP, 1974.

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