This study uses evidence from early English poetry to determine when certain sound changes took place in the transition from Old to Middle English. It builds on the premise that alliteration in early English verse reflects faithfully the identity and similarity of stressed syllable onsets; it is based on the acoustic signal and not on the visual identity of letters. Examination of the behaviour of onset clusters leads to new conclusions regarding the causes for the special treatment of sp-, st-, sk-, and the chronology and motivation of cluster reduction.
List of figures; List of tables; List of abbreviations; Preface; 1. Social and linguistic setting of alliterative verse in Anglo-Saxon and Medieval England; 2. Linguistic structures in English alliterative verse; 3. Segmental histories: velar palatalization; 4. Syllable structure; 5. ONSET and cluster alliteration in Old English: the case of sp-, st-, sk-; 6. ONSET and cluster alliteration in Middle English; 7. Verse evidence for cluster simplification in Middle English; References; Index of names; Subject index.
"This book offers a thorough analysis of alliteration in early English, with an eye to using the data to shed light on long-standing problems of English historical phonology. Furthermore, it synthesizes traditional philology with current formal approaches to phonology, namely, a phonetically informed version of Optimality Theory. The book should therefore appeal to both students and scholars of English metrics and to theoretical phonologists." - Marc Pierce, University of Texas