Why mâle ? A problematic sound change in French

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Despite the extensive research that the phonetic history of French has received, there still remain a number of problematic cases where sound change has given rise to unexpected outcomes. One such case concerns the development of a group of words including mâle ‘male, masculine’. These contain the Late Latin medial consonant sequence [skl] which shows a curious path of evolution in French. Although the exceptional na-ture of this sound change has been familiar to earlier linguists, surpris-ingly few attempts have been made to clarify its probable etiology. The aim of the present study is to shed some light on this problem. First, the evolution of word-medial consonant sequences in early Gallo-Romance is considered, with special attention to sequences composed of three conso-nants (§1). Next, attention turns to the anomalous trajectory of the medial sequence [skl] which appeared in the historical antecedents of mâle and various other phonologically comparable lexical items (§2). Previous treat-ments of the evolution of [skl] in this set of words are then reviewed (§3), before a new interpretation is proposed to account for the history of this sequence (§4)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-214
Number of pages29
JournalRomance Philology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018


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