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PIE Accent (was Re: Stress placement systems)

From:Rob Haden <magwich78@...>
Date:Monday, September 25, 2006, 14:12
On Thu, 21 Sep 2006 10:18:01 +0100, R A Brown <ray@...>

>H. S. Teoh wrote: >> That's very interesting. Perhaps they are relics of a pitch accent >> system in PIE? > >That would seem to suggest it. But, alas, I have not kept up with the >latest thinking on PIE. I note that 'Stress System Database' gives: >{quote} >Indo-European (protolanguage) 12..89/1L Halle & Vergnaud 1987:72 >Syllable "weight" determined by lexical accent >{unquote} > >I note "weight" is put between quotes which suggests to me that it has >nothing to do with syllabic quantity. But there is no reference to a >pitch accent. > >Maybe others on the list are more informed regarding PIE word accent.
To answer H. S. Teoh's question, they are indeed relics of a pitch-accent system in latest PIE. At the latest stage of PIE, the accent system was lexically and morphologically determined. To the best of my knowledge, there were no productive alternations at that point. Quantitative ablaut, however, points to an earlier state of affairs, where the accent was both 1) based on stress rather than pitch, and 2) was "fixed" in the sense of following a phonological pattern. Evidence in favor of this hypothesis includes the following: 1. Forms that exhibited quantitative ablaut were a closed class. 2. Productive forms had consistent (i.e. non-alternating) full-grade vocalism. This is especially true for the thematic paradigms and the causative verbs. 3. Syllabic resonants, *i, and *u generally did not receive accent. Instances in descendant languages where they do are the result of analogical levelling and/or "re-tonicity" (accenting a previously unaccented word). Late PIE accent was also not true lexical accent, but phrasal accent. Cues for this state of affairs include the Greek grave accent, Vedic accentless substantives, and the treatment of verbal accent in both Greek and Vedic. Given that PIE was primarily an SOV language, the unmarked verb position was sentence/clause-final. This position also tends to be the lowest on the "prosodic slope", at least in indicative sentences/clauses. PIE indicative verbs, then, were treated prosodically as proclitics. - Rob