Main stress left in Early Middle English
B. Elan Dresher & Aditi Lahiri
University of Toronto and University of Konstanz
Although the trochaic foot has remained throughout the last two thousand years, the surface changes in English stress appear to be quite drastic. The general consensus has been that Romance loans brought along Romance stress, which meant that main stress shifted from the left edge to the right edge of a word. This means a two-fold shift: a change in the direction of footing (leftwards to rightwards) and a change in which foot bore main stress (from the right foot to the left). If one assumes that language change goes hand in hand with acquisition, then such a reanalysis due to loans in one fell swoop is quite a drastic alteration, particularly since early loans before 1400 had no effect whatsoever on the stress system. Indeed, Halle and Keyser (1970) assume that both parameters shifted together in early middle English, accompanied under certain conditions by stress retraction to the left. Our claim is that the parameters changed one at a time, and that the real Romance influence of main stress right came in much later, around 1660, due to lack of evidence to the contrary. Till then, the only change had been the shift in the direction of parsing given the tendency to pronounce Latin words with secondary stresses (cf. Dannielson).