21.3158, Diss: Historical Ling/Phonology: Menz: 'Accent Type and Language ...'

Tue Aug 3 17:28:49 UTC 2010

LINGUIST List: Vol-21-3158. Tue Aug 03 2010. ISSN: 1068 - 4875.

Subject: 21.3158, Diss: Historical Ling/Phonology: Menz: 'Accent Type and Language ...'

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Date: 30-Jul-2010
From: Andrea Menz < amenz at cn.edu >
Subject: Accent Type and Language Change in Germanic and Baltic Finnic

-------------------------Message 1 ---------------------------------- 
Date: Tue, 03 Aug 2010 13:27:23
From: Andrea Menz [amenz at cn.edu]
Subject: Accent Type and Language Change in Germanic and Baltic Finnic

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Institution: University of Wisconsin-Madison 
Program: Department of German 
Dissertation Status: Completed 
Degree Date: 2010 

Author: Andrea L. Menz

Dissertation Title: Accent Type and Language Change in Germanic and Baltic

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics

Subject Language(s): Bavarian (bar)
                     Cimbrian (cim)
                     Estonian (est)
                     Finnish (fin)
                     Schwyzerd├╝tsch (gsw)

Language Family(ies): Germanic

Dissertation Director(s):
Joseph C Salmons

Dissertation Abstract:

The weakening and loss of final unstressed syllables as in the 'Laws of Finals' has profoundly shaped the structure of the Germanic languages. A shift from mobile stress in Indo-European to fixed initial stress in Germanic is traditionally assumed to have triggered these processes, but the existence of languages with initial stress that have famously preserved many/most final unstressed syllables (e.g. Finnish) seems to contradict this explanation. This study tests crucial elements of the basically
phonetically-driven, unidirectional traditional account, examining connections between 1) a reliance on duration as a correlate of word stress 2) phonetic reduction of vowel quality and 3) phonological and morphological reduction/simplification. 

Drawing on recordings from fieldwork in Finland, Estonia, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, this study compares acoustic correlates of word stress in three pairs of 'preservative' and 'erosive' languages and dialects (languages/dialects with a historical tendency to preserve vs. erode final unstressed syllables): Badish Low Alemannic, Valais Highest Alemannic, Luserna Cimbrian, North Bavarian, Finnish, and Estonian. 5-6 speakers of each dialect/language were recorded reading bisyllabic words with initial stress containing only plosives and ending in a vowel. Tokens were embedded in declarative sentences in pre- final position. Stressed and unstressed vowels were measured for overall duration and at 33% and 67% points for pitch (F0) and intensity. Ratios were calculated on a word-by-word basis for pitch and intensity change between the stressed and unstressed vowels and over the course of the stressed and unstressed vowels. Differences in duration were also calculated between stressed and
unstressed vowels of each word. Averages and standard deviations were calculated for all speakers grouped together. F1, F2, and F3 were converted to the Bark Frequency Scale, normalized, and plotted (grouped by speaker, vowel, and stressed/unstressed position) using NORM, providing a visual representation of each speaker's degree of phonetic reduction of unstressed vowels.  

Results indicate that the traditional account of phonetically-motivated sound change cannot adequately account for the widespread weakening and loss seen in the erosive dialects/languages. Instead, the outcomes of the 'Laws of Finals' and similar processes must be attributed to complex interplay between language-internal and -external forces. 

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