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Stress and vowel length in Tirelat

From:Herman Miller <hmiller@...>
Date:Saturday, August 16, 2008, 3:46
I figured out a way to get the stress on the last syllable of "Beijing"
in Tirelat: give the word 3 syllables.

Beiżiñ /be.i.'dziŋ/

Not entirely unprecedented; I have "Zaiirvor" /za.'i:r.vOr/ "Democratic
Republic of the Congo" for instance. But two vowels coming together like
that is distinctly uncommon in Tirelat.

In any case, I've been going back and examining stress and vowel length
in Tirelat, one of the things that never had much of a satisfactory
resolution. Currently, vowel length is represented in the writing
system, although it's hard to find actual phonemic contrasts in the
native vocabulary. One of the most likely examples, _marat_ "window" vs.
_maraat_ "basket", could alternatively be treated as a distinction in
stress: _márat_ vs. _marát_. There are lots of words with a single long
vowel (_ugoołku_ "chameleon", _mutaa_ "no one", _šuuru_ "door"), which
is always stressed, but no words with more than one long vowel (e.g.,
*laalii, *oomii).

Besides long vowels, diphthongs and closed syllables ending in a voiced
consonant also attract stress. E.g. ši'kaĭ "here", mi'zoĭ "finally",
ġa'zar "deer", sa'nov "transitive verb". All of these could be grouped
as "heavy" syllables. So are there any non-compound, native Tirelat
words with more than one heavy syllable? Very few: _ñurmul_ "thunder"
and _žaglam_ "vulture" are well established, but _ñurmul_ is clearly an
onomatopoeia. There are also words like _terima_ "musical keyboard",
_pereki_ "simultaneous", _neladak_ "agama lizard", and _vurupa_
"tomato", without any heavy syllables, which are stressed on the first

So: with few exceptions, at most one syllable in a Tirelat word is
heavy, and in the few cases where a word contains more than one heavy
syllable, the stress falls on the first one. I still haven't found any
clear cases of vowel length being distinctive.


Eugene Oh <un.doing@...>
David J. Peterson <dedalvs@...>
Benct Philip Jonsson <melroch@...>