「#3507. NURSE Merger」 ([2018-12-03-1])，「#4068. 初期近代英語の -ir, -er, -ur の融合の音声学的メカニズム」 ([2020-06-16-1]) の記事で，r の前位置の母音が歴史的に融合してきた過程に注目した．初期近代英語の音変化の大家である Dobson (724) も "No consonant exercises greater or more varied influence on the development of the words in ME and ModE than r." と述べている通り，近代英語史上きわめて影響力の大きな音変化である．
この音変化について Hickey の論文を読む機会があった．要点がまとめられていて有益なので，その箇所を引用しよう (99--100) ．
The BIRD-TERM-NURSE merger
For his discussion of short vowel centralisation before /r/ Dobson discusses /ɛ/, /ɪ/ and /ʌ/ separately and in that order. However, he sees the development of all three vowels as similar and as having taken place in the early seventeenth century, in "Standard English", though earlier "in the dialects" (Dobson 1968, 746). The centralisation took place "because of the influence of the following r to the central vowel [ə]". He continues to state that "[t]he reason for the retraction was to anticipate the pronunciation of the r, for [ə] is a vowel closely allied to the ModE [r]". Lass (2006, 91) sees the centralisation for all three ME vowels as having taken place somewhat later and mentions Nares (1794) as the first writer to say that "vergin, virgin and vurgin would be pronounced alike".
Dobson (1968, 746) states that the schwa vowel "must have been of approximately the same quality as PresE [ə] which later develops from it when the r is vocalized to [ə]". There is an important conclusion from these remarks, namely that centralisation presupposes the existence of a following /r/ so that the loss of rhoticity must be dated after the centralisation. Confirmation of this is found from prescriptive authors of the eighteenth century. For instance, John Walker in his Critical Pronouncing Dictionary of 1791 has 'bu2rd' for bird, his u2 represents schwa (in his principle 172 he states that the vowel value is the same as that in done, son). Walker also transcribes bird with "r" but we know that he favoured the retention of non-prevocalic /r/ even though he recognised that it was rapidly losing ground during his lifetime.
ここから NURSE Merger のクロノロジーについて改めてポイントを抜き出すと，次のようになる．
(4) 問題の母音の融合は /r/ の消失の前に生じた
・ Dobson, E. J. English Pronunciation 1500--1700. 1st ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 1957. 2 vols.
・ Hickey, Raymond. "Vowels before /r/ in the History of English." Contact, Variation, and Change in the History of English. Ed. Simone E. Pfenninger, Olga Timofeeva, Anne-Christine Gardner, Alpo Honkapohja, Marianne Hundt and Daniel Schreier. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins, 2014. 95--110.
・ Lass, Roger. "Phonology and Morphology." A History of the English Language. Ed. Richard Hogg and David Denison. Cambridge: CUP, 2006. 43--108.
・ Nares, Robert. Elements of Orthoepy. 1794. Reprint. Menston: Scolar P, 1968.
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