Leveling or reanalysis? An explanation of Middle High German paradigm merger

Junyu Ruan


Strong verbs in Middle High German (MHG) have two past indicative stems in the verb inflectional paradigm, which merged into one in Modern High German (NHG). This change is mostly assumed as paradigmatic leveling in previous studies. However, the NHG past indicative stems are inherited from different cells in the MHG paradigm across different inflectional classes, or even innovatively created by combining different parts of the MHG past indicative stems. This paper attempts to identify the base of leveling using a computational model called Minimal Generalization Learner, proposed in Albright (2002b). The results can account for the extraordinary patterns of merger found in German to some extent, but they are not perfect and even pose new problems. As a counter-proposal, I argue that the merger that appears to be paradigmatic leveling might be triggered by reanalysis of phonological features as morphological exponents.


Middle High German; analogy; morphological change; inflectional paradigm

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/plsa.v6i1.4957

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