Another Look at Old English Zero Derivation and Alternations

  • Javier Martín Arista Universidad de La Rioja


This article offers an overview of zero derivation in Old English, a description of the vocalic alternations that hold between zero derived nouns, adjectives and weak verbs and their bases of derivation as well as an account of the significance of alternations in the wider context of the evolution of the lexicon of English. Alternations are quantified and related to i-mutation and word-formation processes by distinguishing direct from reverse alternations and alternations with a strong verb source from alternations with a weak verb target. The conclusions reflect the synchronic-diachronic character of alternations. On the synchronic axis, alternations represent a relatively generalised phenomenon that affects all classes of both strong and weak verbs, while, on the diachronic axis, they allow us to assess the progress of the change from variable to invariable base morphology.Keywords: alternation; word-formation; zero derivation; morphology; Old English

Author Biography

Javier Martín Arista, Universidad de La Rioja
Professor Javier Martín Arista teaches Old English and Linguistics at the University of La Rioja. He is the lead researcher of the research project Nerthus, which deals with the linguistic analysis and lexicography of Old English.


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