The influence of loanwords on Norwegian and English stress

  • B. Elan Dresher
Keywords: phonology, word stress, English, Norwegian, diachronic change


Rice (2006) presents a unified analysis of Norwegian word stress that applies equally to native words and to loanwords. In this analysis, stress is oriented to the right edge of the word, which suggests that the loanwords were responsible for changing what was originally a left-oriented grammar of stress. In this paper I consider a similar reorientation that took place in the history of English, also under the influence of Romance loanwords. Closer examination shows that the two cases appear to be different. Many loanwords of the sort that caused a change in Norwegian entered Middle English without causing any significant change in English stress. It was only in the Early Modern English period that the loanwords were able to impose a right-oriented stress pattern on English. Rice (2006) observes that the loanwords were able to change the Norwegian stress pattern without overtly contradicting the native words; that is, the loanwords could make a change only in aspects of the grammar where the native words were ambiguous. I argue that this principle also accounts for the English case.