pretonic lengthening of vowels

Peter Arkadiev peterarkadiev at YANDEX.RU
Tue Feb 21 15:38:54 UTC 2012

Dear colleagues,

I have consulted a prominent specialist in Russian phonetics Professor Sergej Knjazev (Moscow State University), who told me that though historically the less reduced quality and quantity of Standard Russian pre-tonic vowels can be attributed to lengthening, i.e. a process parallel to the one decribed in the initial posting by Professor Lyosov, from a synchronic perspective it is not correct to say that there is lengthening of pre-tonic vowels in Russian. It can be claimed that pre-tonic vowels are not shortened in normal speech, but they are not pronounced longer than the stressed syllable.

Best wishes,

Peter Arkadiev

21.02.2012, 12:57, "andersen at UCLA.EDU" <andersen at UCLA.EDU>:
> 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.

Peter Arkadiev, PhD
Institute of Slavic Studies
Russian Academy of Sciences 
Leninsky prospekt 32-A 119334 Moscow
peterarkadiev at

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