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Serbocroatian accent, was: Split-Ergativity Madness

From:Vasiliy Chernov <bc_@...>
Date:Friday, October 5, 2001, 17:22
On Wed, 3 Oct 2001 19:51:44 EDT, David Peterson <DigitalScream@...>

> On a side note, has anyone heard anything about Swedish, Japanese and >Serbo-Croat being pitch-accent languages?
I have very little experience with Serbocroatian (Frank, can you help?). But I remember how its pitch-accent system is described in grammars. Roughly, it looks as if it once used to be the usual system with phonological stress (à la Russian or Bulgarian), but then each stress got moved one syllable to the left and became 'rising'; if there was no space to move to (i. e., the word was monosyllabic or originally accented on the first syllable), it didn't move but became 'falling'. These processes also involved proclitics. In the resulting system, a) the accent can be placed on any syllable except the last one; b) if the accent is on the first syllable, it can be either the 'falling' or the 'rising' one; c) monosyllabic words always have the 'falling' accent; d) if a word has a 'falling' accent on its first or sole syllable, the accent must move to a proclitic if there is one. Interestingly, it seems that this system allows for a more 'economical' reinterpretation: 1) The accent, always realized as a rising tonal contour, requires two syllables for its realization (this view seems to have some phonetic grounds). Monosyllabic words are phonologically accentless. 2) Polysyllabic words also can be accentless. Absence of the accent is realized as a falling tonal contour on the word's first syllable. 3) The accent can fall onto any pair of neighboring syllables in a word. Thus reinterpreted, the SC system becomes almost identical (on the phonological level) with the Japanese one, the only difference being that SC accent requires a disyllabic 'platform'. However, there is a lot of dialectal variation concerning the accents in SC. In particular, some dialects don't observe the point (d) above. In such dialects, the 'falling' accent seems to acquire some phonological value (at any rate, it can work as a word delimiter). And there are local dialects with various other deviations (e. g. the 'leftward shift' can be restricted to certain types of environments). Note also that while describing the correspondences between SC and Russian/Bulgarian, I didn't intend to explain the actual history of accentuation in SC. The position of accent in all Slavic langs where it is phonological is determined by Proto-Slavic syllabic tones; SC could simply differ from Russian, Bulgarian, Slovenian, etc. in the way it treated Proto-Slavic sequences of tones. Basilius


Pavel Iosad <pavel_iosad@...>
Frank George Valoczy <valoczy@...>