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syllable cut prosody [was: Re: Swedish vowel phonemes]

From:Dirk Elzinga <dirk_elzinga@...>
Date:Wednesday, February 12, 2003, 20:38
At 11:46 AM +0100 2/12/03, Daniel Andreasson Vpc-Work wrote:
>Andreas Johansson wrote: > >> Daniel: >> > So consonant length is just as phonemic as vowel length in >> > Swedish, that is, not at all. You have long and short vowels >> > and consonants, but if you have one you can't have the other. > >> If you consider neither vocalic length nor consonantal length to be >> phonemic, what do you consider to be the phonemic difference 'tween pairs >> like _vit_ and _vitt_? > >Sorry the reply is a bit belated. > >I don't think anyone can tell what is phonemic, vowel length >or consonant length. "Därom tvista de lärde", as we say. If >you claim that neither is phonemic, the consequence is that >we have like 17 to 22 vowel phonemes (like e.g. Olle Engstrand >says in the IPA handbook). Otherwise you have to say (like me) that we have nine >vowel phonemes. And then we have length.
There is a Third Way. A backwater in Germanic prosody recognizes a distinction known as syllable cut; in German it's known as either Silbenschnittskorrelation or loser/fester Anschluß. The idea is that if a vowel has a particularly close connection to the following consonant, it is characterized by close contact (fester Anschluß). If a vowel has a loose connection to the following consonant, it is characterized by loose contact (loser Anschluß). Closed syllables always have close contact. Another way of thinking about the distinction (and the way it is usually presented) is that a consonant "cuts off" a vowel more abruptly in close contact than in loose contact. The problem has been finding a phonetic (acoustic or articulatory) correlation with this distinction; I've seen one paper which claims that the distinction between long and short (or tense and lax) vowels in German has to do with the timing of the vowel peak and the following consonant onset rather than the raw duration of the vowel itself. If this is true, then this could constitute evidence for syllable cut. Syllable cut prosody can be used to explain the problem in Northern Germanic languages where a stressed syllable must be closed (by a the first half of a geminate or the first consonant of a cluster) or have a long vowel. If consonant length is predictable (gemination occurs to make a light syllable heavy under stress), and vowel length is predictable (vowels are lengthened to make a light syllable heavy under stress), maybe the real distinction is syllable cut. Syllables with loose contact will lengthen the vowel under stress, while syllables with close contact will geminate the consonant. Syllables which are closed are characterized by close contact in any case and can be stressed without any type of lengthening. A pair of words from Norwegian may be helpful in illustrating the distinction: /hake/ 'chin' becomes ['ha:.k@] -- loose contact /hake/ 'pickaxe' becomes ['hak.k@] -- close contact Both forms have the same underlying segmental structure; they differ only in the syllable cut distinction. With syllable cut prosody, you get to keep your small vowel inventory, since lengthening is predictable under stress for syllables in loose contact; and you don't need to commit to underlying geminates, since gemination is predictable under stress for syllables in close contact. Dirk -- Dirk Elzinga "It is important not to let one's aesthetics interfere with the appreciation of fact." - Stephen Anderson


Roger Mills <romilly@...>