[Lingtyp] Language change and foot structure

Adam James Ross Tallman ajrtallman at utexas.edu
Wed Aug 18 16:04:18 UTC 2021

Dear Matt,

The Pano language family might have candidate examples of this. Some
languages are iambic, others trochaic and others mix properties (or are
'incoherent') of iambic and trochaic patterning. If you can read Spanish
Carolina Gonzalez wrote an overview
<https://sedyl.cnrs.fr/amerindia/articles/pdf/A_39_05.pdf>, but otherwise,
just check out the citations. Some Pano languages seem to have no clear
evidence for a metrical system - as far as I have been able to discern,
despite some early preliminary (mis)analysis
<https://sedyl.cnrs.fr/amerindia/articles/pdf/A_39_04.pdf>, you don't need
<https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32359331/> to analyze Chacobo as metrical.
Once you incorporate independently necessary tone sandhi rules +
intonation, it seems that the motivation for a metrical analysis disappears
(or as suggested by one of our reviewers, the metrical structure is there
but displays no empirical signal, which may or may not have been a joke).

As for the direction of change, I don't know. We haven't been very
successful in reconstructing much of anything about Pano prosody to my
knowledge. If Chacobo represents the older system, the extant
iambic/trochaic might have come from something else.

On the other hand, I wonder if it is always so obvious that there is one
determinate analysis of a system as being one or the other (iambic or
trochaic) given

A. the possibility of throwing in extrametricality (wsws could be <w>sws or

B. the fact that the phonological patterns that the metrical system fits
out are an open ended set with no necessary or sufficient conditions,

C. and the general lack of clarity regarding the *phonetic signal* of the
metrical structure (despite some interesting studies
<https://www.journal-labphon.org/articles/10.5334/labphon.42/>, it remains
totally unclear what types of results would actually falsify the so-called
iambic-trochaic law because of a failure of. Also note that there appear to
be few cases where claims about the presence of secondary stress
have actually been corroborated with phonetic studies suggesting that at
least some number of patterns might have been hallucinated by the author).

p.s. @Hiroto - wouldn't Iroquian languages be a possible example?



On Tue, Aug 17, 2021 at 9:08 PM Matthew Windsor <matthew_windsor at sil.org>

> Dear all,
> Is anyone aware of a language where metrical/rhythmic structure has
> clearly shifted from having right-headed (iambic) feet to left-headed
> (trochaic) feet or vice versa? I’m studying a language variety where this
> seems to be the case. It’s a quantity-sensitive system, so the change
> mainly affects strings of light syllables. Any examples or suggested
> resources would be helpful, thanks!
> Regards,
> --
> *Matt Windsor*
> Linguistics & Translation Facilitator | SIL Americas, North
> Cell: 1-807-631-6656
> ᐅᐦᐅᐁᐧ ᐃᐦᑭᑐᐃᐧᐣ ᑮᐄᐧᔮᐦᓯᐃᐧ ᒦᓇ ᑭᑮᐱᐄᐧᒋᐊᔮᒥᑯᓈᐣ.
> _______________________________________________
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Adam J.R. Tallman
Post-doctoral Researcher
Friedrich Schiller Universität
Department of English Studies
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