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Verse Texts as Evidence for Linguistic Change: the Case of Medieval French.

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Shakir Mohamed.

I will discuss several ways in which verse texts can be used by historical linguists to trace linguistic change, drawing my examples from Medieval French. Beginning with an illustration of standard techniques, such as the use of rhymes, assonances and syllable count, I will then focus on a key area of my own research: the use of verse as evidence for the nature of stressed syllables in French. Reconstruction of the rhythm of eight-syllable lines of verse in a variety of texts across the Medieval period shows that a weak-strong stress alternation in the earliest texts (C9-C11) is lost during C13 , and subsequent texts show no stress-based organization of verse. I will argue that this illustrates a crucial change in the perception of stress by French speakers, the effects of which are still present in the French spoken today.

This talk is part of the SBR Graduate Talks series.

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