Continuing my posts on the following theory:
In southern Britain in the fifth century there was a significant Latin-speaking Christian British population. This is evidenced by pre-550 Latin loanwords in Old English and in particular by Christian terminology. The loanwords are most likely to be due to this population adopting Old English as their first language. This may be why there is also an important group of religious terms coined in Old English rather than borrowed from Latin. And it also explains why there are virtually no British loanwords in Old English.
The dating of I-umlaut.
In an earlier post there was a discussion of the date of i-umlaut in Primitive Old English, which is crucial for the theory being suggested here. This stated:
The point is that i-umlaut is the kind of linguistic change that, in order to spread, requires a continuum of mutually intelligible dialects that are in geographical contact. It is not like a shift in vocabulary, or even grammar, that could conceivably be passed on through long-distance trade contacts. How could insular Germanic acquire a continental sound change once it was physically separated from the continental dialects? The obvious answer must lie in the fact that the migration and settlement of the Anglo-Saxon was a process extending over quite a long period, and that i-umlaut was introduced by a later group of settlers who had acquired it while still on the continent and in contact with mutually intelligible Germanic dialects that had it already.
What approximate dates apply to this process? In rough outline, according to the archaeological records the first continental Germanic finds date from the early 5th century; then there is a marked increase in finds and cemeteries dating from the second half of the 5th century, pointing to an increase in immigration from the middle of that century; and then new intrusive artefact types (of Frankish and Scandinavian origin) appear from the late 5th century implying settlement from other emigration areas. Recent archaeological scholarship (e.g. Härke 2011 [Heinrich Härke, 2011 ‘Anglo-Saxon Immigration and Ethnogenesis’ in Medieval Archaeology 55, 1–28]) suggests that a process of acculturation to the incoming community by the remaining British population was under way during the 6th century, so we can assume a tailing-off of settlement by the end of the first quarter of that century. The introduction of i-umlaut can be fitted into the historical sequence by assuming that it came in with a later stratum of migrants.
Much scholarly opinion now places I-umlaut in the first quarter of the 6th century, or at latest before 550, during the last period of the Anglo-Saxon settlement. This seems necessary for linguistic reasons. Several place names show primitive Old English palatalization of velars in proximity to front vowels. The front vowels are the product of British I-affection, which is dated roughly to the sixth century. Examples are the element enshrined in the names of the River Churn and Cirencester, which must have been something like British *korin- > *kerin- (by I-affection) > primitive Old English *kjern-; also Ariconium (> Welsh Erging) > Archen(field); *gabli- ‘fork’ > *gevl- > primitive Old English */jevl/ > Yeovil (originally a river name). This of course is only a terminus post quem. But if I-umlaut were to be placed after the Augustinian mission, we would surely expect it to have affected at least some Latin names associated with that period. For example, would we not expect instead of Agustinus, something like *Ægsten?
The Old English form Lyccidfelth, Lyccitfelth, which Campbell derives from British *Leːtgεːd (§486) or (presumably later) British *Luitgεd (§565) appears to offer possible light on the question. It seems to have been borrowed while the vowel of the second element was a front (mid) vowel and before it developed into /oe/, since the preceding consonant was palatalized in Old English (whether the British /g/ became in Old English /k/ as it would at an early date or /j/ as it would later makes no ultimate difference). More importantly, on Campbell’s argument it was borrowed after British /e:/ had become /ui/, so that OE <y> represents I-umlaut of /ui/.
On inscriptional evidence Sims-Williams (2003: 394) [Sims-Williams, Patrick, 2003 The Celtic Inscriptions of Britain: Phonology and Chronology, c. 400-1200. Publications of the Philological Society, 37. Oxford: Blackwell] dates eːi > Pr. W. ui ‘second half of the seventh century’ and εːi > Pr. W. ɔi ‘early to mid 8th century’. The latter date offers no difficulties as the place name is very likely to have been borrowed before 700 (and in any case the change might not have taken place in a syllable under lower stress). But if /ui/ did not arise until at least 650 it appears to place I-umlaut in the second half of the 7th century, long after the Augustinian mission. True, the first mention of Lichfield in Bede is as the place where St Chad fixed his see in 669. But this could hardly be the time when the name was borrowed. The area must have been entered by Germanic speakers before 550. But in fact the Lyccid- form, though the earliest recorded, is not the only one. Variants include licidfelth, liccidfeld, licidfelt, li[c]idfelth, Licetfelda, Licetfeld, in Licetfelda, æt Licettfelda, Liccedfeld, etc., all with <i>, suggesting that the <y> spelling can be interpreted in some other way than as the reflex of I-umlaut: either as graphic substitution of <y> or as combinative change of /i/ > /y/ between the lateral and palatal consonants. If the <i> form is original, it must reflect borrowing of British /e:/ or /e:i/ as /i:/ with subsequent (though not necessarily immediate) shortening. And in fact shortening in the first syllable, together with reduction of the second and in some forms simplification of the medial cluster /tt∫/ to /t∫/ suggests a considerable lapse of time since the loan.
Note further that
‘Bede’s forms of the name Lyccid-Licidfelth have been taken by Forster to show the results of a sound change (PrW ē > ui) the earliest Welsh evidence for which is dated c. 820 though the change itself is ascribed to c. 675 (Forster 1942, p. 587)’ (according to Sawyer 1976: 213) [P. H. Sawyer. Medieval Settlement: continuity and change, 213.]
Krogh (1996: 200) [Steffen Krogh Die Stellung des Altsächsischen im Rahmen der germanischen Sprachen 1996 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht)] agrees that the vocalization is /eː/ > /iː/.
Another possible pointer to the dating of I-umlaut lies in English place names formed with the –ingas element. On grounds other than phonological, these formations, once thought to be very early, are now assigned to a period not earlier than 600. ‘With regard to the date of –ingas, there is no documentary evidence for its usage in English place-names prior to 600 (Cox (1976) [B. Cox ‘The place-names of the earliest English records’, Journal of the English Place Name Society 8 (1976) 12–66, cited in Gavin Smith ‘-ingas and the Mid-Seventh-Century Diocese’, Nomina 31 (2008) p. 78]. Names formed with this element lack I-umlaut, despite the presence of i in the suffix. By the time that they were formed, I-umlaut must have ceased to operate, which implies that it had become inoperative by about 600, roughly the time of the Augustinian mission. Likewise the tribal names in Old English poetry formed with -ingas generally lack I-umlaut, despite reflecting legendary traditions that probably entered English society in the first half of the sixth century. The absence of I-umlaut in these formations from native elements contrasts tellingly with its presence in a word like mynecen, formed, on a Latin loanword, with a not greatly dissimilar native suffix.
However, the main argument for this dating is based on the social dynamics of phonological change. As has just been said, I-umlaut comes later than the palatalization of velars and the latter change operates on British place name elements: hence neither sound change had started at the time of the settlement, but belong to a time after the beginning of the earliest settlements. I-umlaut is highly unlikely to have spread to continental Germanic from a starting-point in Britain; it must have started in continental Germanic and spread to Britain. But a sound change of this kind spreads in a wave by direct, intimate contact, from one community to another, between mutually comprehensible dialects. Once the speakers of primitive Old English were in Britain, separated by sea from mainland Europe, there would have been a break in this kind of immediate contact between speakers of primitive Old English and the Germanic speakers in whose dialects I-umlaut was beginning to operate. The sporadic contact afforded by trade is strong enough to spread lexis, and even just possibly some grammatical features, but not systematic phonological changes. In order to have acquired the wave of sound changes known as I-umlaut, English speakers established in Britain need to have been in intimate contact with speakers of mutually intelligible Germanic dialects which had received I-umlaut. The only way that this could happen would be: (a) for I-umlaut to have been under way in very closely related Continental Germanic dialects (i.e. virtually dialects of Primitive Old English left behind on the Continent); (b) for speakers of these dialects to have entered Britain in a new movement of settlers; and (c) for I-umlaut to have spread from these dialects into the dialects of primitive Old English already established in Britain.
If I-umlaut occurred as late as the Augustinian mission, it is hard to explain how it spread to Britain from the continent. The settlement had been completed well before, and trading and cultural contacts are simply not powerful enough bonds to transmit a fundamental phonological change. Moreover we cannot assume that cross-Channel contacts were primarily with Germanic speakers, rather than, as the later loans of Group 3 suggest, with Romance speakers.
Do we have historical, archaeological, and literary evidence for a second movement of Anglo-Saxon settlers occurring some time (approximately the early sixth century) after the initial period (which began possibly as early as the late fourth century)? The answer seems to be yes, on several grounds. (i) If we follow the interpretation of Gildas favoured by a number of scholars, there was initially a period of peaceful settlement by Germanic foederati; then a ‘Saxon revolt’ with a period of warfare, culminating in the defeat of the Saxons at ‘Mons Badonicus’, followed by relative peace at the time when he was writing, which may have been as late as 550; followed, of course unknown to Gildas at the time of writing, by a revival of ‘Anglo-Saxon’ power and its extension over most of Britain south of the Forth.
(ii) Archaeological evidence points to large mixed ‘Germanic’ and ‘British’ areas in eastern Britain during the fifth and early sixth centuries. There are also areas of entirely ‘Anglian’ settlement, which show a more homogeneous Germanic and probably pagan culture, probably indicating recent arrival from southern Scandinavia. From the mid sixth century onwards, there is evidence of larger more organized political entities taking control of eastern Britain, based on expanding trade networks, and adopting models of kingship (arguably on British models). Loss of control by the native authorities seems to have occurred in both Sussex and Lindsey in the 6th century, and ‘warband’ takeover seems to date from about the same time in Wessex (i.e. the upper Thames valley) and Warwickshire.
We should therefore consider two distinct periods of Anglo-Saxon incursion: a localized colonization by foederati and loosely organized agricultural communities from perhaps as early as the late fourth century and lasting for a century or more, and a second wave, starting at some point in the sixth century, consisting of a relatively organized, ‘aristocratic’, warrior culture from which dynasties and hierarchies rapidly arose.
I would then identify the introduction of I-umlaut with the second wave of settlement. Some at least of these settlers came from the Danish peninsula and Scandinavia. Perhaps that area was the starting-point of I-umlaut, from which it spread south into Germany and the Low Countries.