#3956. 語形と韻脚がよく一致していた古英語と一致しなくなり始めた中英語[prosody][meter][syllable][french][loan_word][rsr]


 語形 (wordform) と韻脚 (foot) は,各々独立した単位である.片方は形態音韻論上の単位,もう一方は韻律論上の単位として,各々異なるレベルで役割を担っている.しかし,両者は一致することもよくある.実際,2音節の語形は原則として韻脚に乗るだろう.
 歴史的にみると語形と韻脚の一致度は減少傾向にあるようだ.Ritt (122) が次のように論じている.

It seems that English changed from a language in which isomorphy between feet and wordforms was relatively common into one in which it was the exception rather than the rule. . . . Old English word stress fell, as a rule, on the leftmost syllable of the stem. Furthermore, Old English wordforms tended to consist of a stem plus inflectional endings, so that Old English wordforms would typically consist of one stressed and one or more unstressed syllables. Since this type of structure is practically identical with the optimal foot structure, it is easy to see why Old English wordforms very often tended to coincide with feet. It can be assumed that this tendency of feet and wordforms to coincide remained unchanged until well into the Middle English Period. Then, however, the relationship became unbalanced due to two factors. First, the number of monosyllabic words, which was already high in Old English, increased steadily until monosyllabism became typical of English wordforms. A comparison of Old English texts (Beowulf and The Battle of Maldon) and Middle English ones (The Owl and the Nightingale and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales) shows that in Old English less than half of all wordforms used were monosyllabic, while in Middle English roughly two-thirds were. Second, a large number of French loan words were integrated into the English lexicon, and many of them were stressed on their final syllables. It is easy to see that the combination of these two factors must have decreased the probability of feet to coincide with wordforms considerably.

 古英語の語形は典型的に「1音節の語幹(強勢)+1音節の屈折語尾(弱勢)」という構成なので,2音節の韻脚ときれいに重なることが多い.ところが,中英語にかけて屈折語尾が衰退し,1音節の語形が増えてくると,1つの語形のみで1つの韻脚を構成することができなくなってくる.つまり,形態音韻論と韻律論がかみ合わなくなってくる.さらに中英語期には,異質な強勢規則 (= Romance Stress Rule; rsr) をもつフランス語からの借用語が大量に流入し,英語本来の「強弱」の語形とともに「弱強」などの語形も増えてきた.こうして,語形が従来型の韻脚に必ずしも乗らないことが多くなってきた.つまり,古英語から中英語にかけての一連の変化を通じて,英語は類型的にいって語形と韻脚が一致しやすいタイプの言語から一致しにくいタイプの言語へとシフトしてきたことになる.
 屈折の衰退と語(形)の1音節化については「#655. 屈折の衰退=語根の焦点化」 ([2011-02-11-1]),「#2626. 古英語から中英語にかけての屈折語尾の衰退」 ([2016-07-05-1]) を参照.また,屈折の衰退とフランス借用語の導入という2つの要因は,今回の話題にとどまらず中英語の韻律に様々な形でインパクトを与えたと考えられるが,指摘しておくべきもう1つの重要な点は脚韻 (rhyme) の導入との関係である.これについては「#796. 中英語に脚韻が導入された言語的要因」 ([2011-07-02-1]) を参照.

 ・ Ritt, Nikolaus. Quantity Adjustment: Vowel Lengthening and Shortening in Early Middle English. Cambridge: CUP, 1994.

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