The purpose of this paper is to indicate that feature geometry theory (FGT) suggested by Clements (1985), Sagey (1986) and others is adequate to the explanation of assimilation in diachronic sound change. Archangeli & Pulleyblank propose that, by using “minimal scansion”(applicable at the level of the appropriate hierachical tier) or “maximal scansion” (applicable at the syllable level), vowel harmony and consonant harmony can be explained by spreading of distinctive features without violating “locality condition”. With respect to nasal assimilation, I show that “assimilation-at-a-distance” arising from Middle English (ME) to Modern English (ModE) stated in Jespersen (1914) is happily explained by the spreading of the distinctive feature [-cor], using “moraic scansion” and related to “Lexical Diffusion” suggested by Wang (1969).
This paper is a discussion of Infl features and V movement from a historical perspective, using the minimalist framework, and a note on nominative Case assignment. We first demonstrate that the finite Infl carries [+Tense, +Agr, +Mood] for earliar English, but [+Tense, +Agr] for contemporary English, due to the loss of subjunctive morphology. Additionally, more drastic reinterpretations occurred in the subjunctive and imperative —from [+Tense, +Agr, +Mood] to [+Agr] and from [+Tense, +Agr, +Mood] to [+Tense], respectively. [+Agr]for the subjunctive is a dependent Case assigner which must be activated by another governor under the head government, while the auxiliary do is a dummy [+Tense] supporter in the imperative. We can then explain V movement in terms of the strength of — not AgrP but —‘nonsplit Infl’ by counting the number of positive Infl features. The more, the stronger. Looking over the historical data, we confirm the facts of V movement primarily in Early Modern English.
This article concerns the historical transition of genitive Case assigner in noun phrases. It is argued that genitive Case assigner changed from N to D in the history of English. To be more specific, in OE, N could assign (inherent) genitive Case either to the right or to the left, while D was inert in Case assignment. Genitive Case assignment to the right was lost in early ME, and the preposition of was chosen as a new Case assigner for a postnominal noun phrase. D, a (structural) genitive Case assigner, was only activated in his-genitive constructions in early ME. As his-genitives flourished from late ME through early ModE, however, Case assignment by D diminished Case assignment by N, and finally, the former overwhelmed the latter. Thus, D is a genitive Case assigner for a prenominal possessor in PE.