The Diachronic Lenition in Old English

Published: 27 August 2021| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/rh227v625g.1
Hideo Kobayashi


Honeybone (2012) states that there are not many lenitions in the history of English. Kindly refer to Honeybone (2012) for the detailed definition of lenition. The present author finds it worth collecting and collating the raw data concerning such a rare phenomenon in Old English and its diachronically earlier form because no data on lenition in the source language has been as yet made available. The data on lenition in Old English have been compiled from Anderson and Jones (1977) and Collins Online Dictionary (2021). The data is organized as follows. Section 1 shows in the three columns 12 diachronically earlier forms in Old English compared to Middle English and their meanings in Modern English. Three words in Old Norse are compared with their equivalents in Old English. One word in Old High German is compared with its equivalent in Old English. This illustration could make it possible to trace what may count as the [ɡ] → [w] lenition back in the language evolution. The orthographic g is /ɣ/ (voiceless velar fricative) between two voiced sounds in Old English (Baker 2003). Section 2, in a similar fashion, indicates that diachronically the [t] → [d] lenition occurred when the words in Old High German were borrowed into Old English; and there were 105 words exhibiting such a language change. As Anderson and Jones (1977) suggest for a future study to be conducted, it may be worth testing the hypothesis that the velar consonant is more liable to undergo lenition than coronal and labial consonants in Old English.