Jade Sandstedt, a PhD student in the Angus McIntosh Centre for Historical Linguistics, has been awarded the R. H. Robins student prize by the Philological Society of Great Britain
The Prize is awarded annually for the best article on a linguistic topic involving the study of languages through their history, structure, or relationships with other languages.
Jade's article discusses how we can use modern theories about phonology (the systems of sounds and how they pattern in languages) to investigate historical sound systems from written texts such as manuscripts and inscriptions of runes. His paper provides a new analysis of (until now) understudied vowel harmony patterns in dialects of Norwegian that were spoken in the 12th to 14th centuries.
Vowel harmony is a process found in many languages whereby vowels that are near one another (e.g. within the same word) tend to share a given property. For example, the tongue or lips may need to be in a similar position to produce all vowels in a given word. Vowel harmony can be found in modern languages such as Turkish and Korean; the focus of Jade's PhD is to study geographic variation and historical changes in Old Norwegian vowel harmony. His aim is to develop better techniques that will allow us to use old texts to understand how now-extinct versions of languages may have sounded to the speakers at the time.
As well as a cash prize, Jade will be given the opportunity to publish his paper in the Transactions of the Philological Society (the Society's high-impact journal). It's a hugely prestigious award and we are all extremely proud of Jade for this fantastic achievement!