pretonic lengthening of vowels

andersen at UCLA.EDU andersen at UCLA.EDU
Tue Feb 21 08:57:27 UTC 2012

Kaan'echn@! Standard Russian is a language that distributes its stress  
over accented and pretonic syllable, the latter typically being as  
long or longer than the accented syllable (and often heard as the  
accented syllable by foreigners), By being long(er) pretonic vowels  
escape the vowel reduction that affects all other unaccented  
syllables—with the exception of vowels in absolute initial position.  
Hence osnova [asn'ova], osnovnoj [asnavn'oj], obosoblenie  
[ab at sablenie], etc.

This iambic distribution of duration in feet is actually a  
commonplace. Your key word is metrical phonology.

Good luck with your work!

Henning Andersen

Quoting Sergey Lyosov <sergelyosov at>:

> Dear typologists,
> could somebody answer a question related to historical phonology?
> The vocalism of the Hebrew Bible displays what is called  
> “Vortondehnung,” lengthening of a short vowel in the pretonic open  
> syllable. Admittedly, the language did so in order to “save” the  
> respective vowel from the deletion that came about at a certain time  
> point. Note that the pretonic [a] is usually lengthened, while the  
> pretonic [i] and [u] are deleted. A simplified example is as  
> follows: the Proto-Semitic *kabíd ‘heavy’ (the stress is on the last  
> syllable) appears in Biblical Hebrew as kaabíd, while in Biblical  
> Aramaic it is kbid.
>      Do we know, cross-language, more cases of vowel lengthening  
> meant to save a pretonic open-syllable short vowel from deletion?
>      With all best wishes,
>              Sergey Loesov
> Oriental Institute
> Russian State University for the Humanities
> 6 Miusskaya pl. Moscow 125267, Russia.

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