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HELP: Deciding on Prosody?

From:Kristian Jensen <kljensen@...>
Date:Thursday, November 12, 1998, 2:55
As I have revealed in my last post, what is keeping me from further
developing the Lumanesian languages is the dilemma I have with
deciding the prosody of Lumanesian.

My aim is still as it always has been: To keep the Lumanesian
languages as believable and naturalistic as possible - thereby
conforming to what is believed to be how naturally evolving languages
work. Passing the "Turing Test" - some may say.

With this in mind, I'm not sure (and have not been for a long time) if
my aesthetic tastes for prosody is naturalistic given the Lumanesian's
present morphology. Somehow, I'm drawn to a right-hand dominant and
quantity sensitive stress pattern. (That is, stress is counted from
the end of a word with heavier syllables drawing stress to
themselves). I also seem to be drawn to such a pattern that allows
dactylic stress patterns (i.e., stressed followed by two non-stressed
syllables) to occur. I'm probably drawn to all this because all these
are quite similar to English stress patterns.

The problem is that such a stress rule makes it difficult to
distinguish one morpheme from another. I know this does not appear to
be a problem in English - all the suffixes affect stress placement in
the base form. But these shifts are regular and do not make it
particularly difficult to distinguish the base word. Similarly,
compound words in English also has a regular shift but ignores the
right-hand dominated stress rule entirely such that it is easy to pick
out the bases that make up the compound word. English "cheats"
somewhat with regards to compounds because it ignores syllable weight
and right-handed domination of the entire compound word. Instead,
English stress in compound words is placed on the tonic syllable of
the first base that makes up the compound word regardless of the
right-hand dominated stress rules that is used in other words. The
result is that the original stress pattern of the bases are maintained
(especially the first base).

I'm wondering if it is at all naturalistic for a language to have
compound words and maintain its lexical stress rules upon the
resulting compound words, even if this means a shift in the bases
original stress pattern.

TO ILLUSTRATE, I'll be using a extremely simplified conlang.
Let's say that a language has the following words:

This language has a quantity sensitive stress structure with the right
hand dominating at the last three syllables. Thus, stress falls on one
of the last three heavy syllables (in this case any syllable ending
with *l*) nearest to the end of the word. Any ultimate and penultimate
light syllable is extrametrical. Thus, if none of the three last
syllables were heavy, then stress falls on the antepenultimate
syllable. The nine sample words would therefore have to be stress in
the following way (syllables in capital letters marking the stressed

These words can be combined to created the following compounds. I've
separated the bases by a dash so that they can easily be identified,
but I have adjusted the stressed syllables accordingly.:

Note that there are some compounds that are homophonous with each
other once the stress rule is applied. These are:
     "na-kaKAL" and "naka-KAL"
     "tal-kaKAL" and "talka-KAL"

Some are even homophonous with stems:
     "NAkala and "NA-kala
     "naNAkala" and "na-NAkala"

It becomes quite ambiguous. I can't imagine a natlang doing this. Or
am I wrong?

Eagerly awaiting your input,
-Kristian- 8-)