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Re: OT: Justifying a stress pattern (plus OT: joke last name templates)

From:Dirk Elzinga <dirk.elzinga@...>
Date:Sunday, December 30, 2007, 17:20
I'll just answer your first question.

On Dec 29, 2007 10:28 PM, Eric Christopherson <rakko@...> wrote:

> Not related to Andreas's post itself, but on the topic of generally > justifying stress patterns, does anyone know any of the theoretical > reasons for different stress systems, and how stress interacts with > phonetics, phonology (and maybe morphology and syntax)?
There are three properties of stress systems which I think get to your question. First, stress is Cumulative; this means that a (phonological) word has a single syllable which is more prominent than the others. Second, stress is Demarcative; this means that stressed syllables fall on a syllable at or near a word boundary. The most commonly stressed syllables are initial, final, and penultimate. Third, stress is Rhythmic; stressed syllables come at more or less regular intervals. If you're looking for a functional explanation for stress, you could argue that the first two properties of stress systems help listeners identify words and their boundaries. The third property may be more basic to human physiology and behavior; we tend to do things rhythmically (breathing, walking, etc), and the alternation of stressed and stressless syllables can be seen as another manifestation of rhythmic behavior. As for why different languages have different stress systems, well, they also have different phoneme inventories, different sets of morphological categories, different syntactic structures ... It's all part of what makes human language endlessly fascinating--seeing the variations on a theme in all kinds of linguistic structures. The interplay between stress and morphology and syntax will also vary from language to language. Some languages reckon stress strictly on phonological principles (word edges, syllable count, syllable weight); I believe Finnish is such a language (though I'd be happy to be corrected); Nahuatl is another. Other languages, like English, take word structure and even lexical category into account. As Mark already pointed out, the suffix -ity requires stress on the immediately preceding syllable--hence the shift in stress in derivationally related words like eLECtric and elecTRICity. Other suffixes have similar effects. Part of speech can also partially determine stress patterns. In English, nouns follow a different stress pattern than verbs and underived adjectives. Recall from our earlier discussion of extrametricality (the systematic disregard for edge elements in reckoning stress), that Latin ignores final syllables, and places stress on the penult (when heavy) or the antepenult (when the penult is light). English nouns follow pretty much the same rule: aROma, hoRIzon, veRANda and syNOPsis have heavy penults and thus penultimate stress, while CINema and ASterisk have light penults and thus antepenultimate stress. English verbs and underived adjectives, on the other hand, ignore a final consonant, so that a final syllable is stressed if heavy after disregarding the final consonant; otherwise the penult is stressed. So you get aDAPT, sucCINCT, eRODE, and reMOTE, all of which have heavy syllables when the final consonant is ignored; and adMONish, EDit and FRANtic, which have light final syllables when the final consonant is ignored. Of course, there are exceptions to these patterns, but these are the broad outlines. Syntax can play a role as well. We end stress the words thirTEEN and TennesSEE, but if they introduce a noun phrase, the stress shifts: THIRteen MEN, TENNessee VALLey. This is called the Rhythm Rule because its effect is to adjust the stresses to get a more regular alternation of stressed and stressless syllables. Whew! I hope that was helpful to you. It was good practice for me; I'm teaching English Phonetics and Phonology this semester, and it's good to be reminded of some of the material. Dirk PS: About the stress in your last name. It follows the regular English noun rule: stress the penult if heavy, otherwise stress the antepenult. Christopherson has a light penult (the spelling <er> is a syllabic /r/; the syllable thus has no coda and is therefore light), so stress shifts to the antepenult. My last name shows some variability in stress placement. For people who pronounce the <g> (as I do), the penult is heavy and stress falls on it: elZINga. For people who do not pronounce the <g>, the penult is light, and stress falls on the antepenult: ELzinga. I answer to both. The Frisian pronunciation (Elzinga is a Frisian name) is [ˈɛlzɪŋxa], so obviously Frisian doesn't follow the English noun stress rule :-).


Eugene Oh <un.doing@...>