Skip to main content Accessibility help

Reconstructing phonological change: duration and syllable structure in Latin vowel reduction*

  • Ranjan Sen (a1)

During the fixed initial-stress period of Latin (sixth to fifth centuries BC), internal open syllable vowels were totally neutralised, usually raising to /i/ (*ː>perficiō ‘I complete’), whereas in closed syllables /a/ was raised to /e/, but the other vowels remained distinct (*per.fak.tos>perfectus ‘completed’). Miller (1972) explains closed syllable resistance by positing internal secondary stress on closed syllables. However, evidence from vowel reduction and syncope suggest that internal syllables never bore stress in early archaic times. A typologically unusual alternative is proposed: contrary to the pattern normally found (Maddieson 1985), vowels had longer duration in closed syllables than in open syllables, as in Turkish and Finnish, thus permitting speakers to attain the targets for non-high vowels in closed syllables. This durational pattern is manifested not only in vowel reduction, but also in the quantitative changes seen in ‘classical’ and ‘inverse’ compensatory lengthenings, the development CVːCV > CVC and ‘superheavy’ degemination (VːCCV > VːCV).

Hide All

I should like to thank John Coleman, John Penney, Aditi Lahiri and John Harris for their advice in preparing this paper. Three anonymous reviewers and an associate editor also provided many valuable insights and guidance over the course of its evolution. All errors are of course my own.

Hide All
Allen, W. Sidney (1973). Accent and rhythm. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Allen, W. Sidney (1978). Vox Latina. 2nd edn.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Barnes, Jonathan (2006). Strength and weakness at the interface: positional neutralization in phonetics and phonology. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Bergem, Dick van (1995). Acoustic and lexical vowel reduction. Amsterdam: Institute for Functional Research into Language and Language Use.
Blevins, Juliette (2004). Evolutionary Phonology: the emergence of sound patterns. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Burzio, Luigi (2007). Phonology and phonetics of English stress and vowel reduction. Language Sciences 29. 154176.
Campbell, Nick (1999). A study of Japanese speech timing from the syllable perspective. Journal of the Phonetic Society of Japan 3:2. 2939.
CIL (1862). Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum. 17 vols. Berlin: Preussische Akademie der Wissenschaften apud G. Reimerum.
Cohn, Abigail C., Ham, William H. & Podesva, Robert J. (1999). The phonetic realization of singleton-geminate contrasts in three languages of Indonesia. InOhala et al. (1999). 587590.
Corssen, Wilhelm P. (1858–59). Über Aussprache, Vokalismus und Betonung der lateinischen Sprache. 2 vols. Leipzig: Teubner.
Crosswhite, Katherine M. (2001). Vowel reduction in Optimality Theory. New York & London: Routledge.
Crosswhite, Katherine M. (2004). Vowel reduction. In Hayes et al. (2004). 191231.
Cser, András (1999). Diphthongs in the syllable structure of Latin. Glotta 75. 172193.
de Chene, Brent & Anderson, Stephen R. (1979). Compensatory lengthening. Lg 55. 505535.
Ernout, Alfred, Meillet, Antoine & André, Jacques (1985). Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue latine: histoire des mots. 4th edn.Paris: Klincksieck. (1st edn 1932 by Alfred Ernout & Antoine Meillet.)
Esposito, Anna & Benedetto, Maria Gabriella Di (1999). Acoustical and perceptual study of gemination in Italian stops. JASA 106. 20512062.
Fant, Gunnar (1960). Acoustic theory of speech production with calculations based on X-ray studies of Russian articulations. The Hague: Mouton.
Flemming, Edward S. (2002). Auditory representations in phonology. New York: Routledge.
Flemming, Edward S. (2004). Contrast and perceptual distinctiveness. In Hayes et al. (2004). 232276.
Fourakis, Marios (1991). Tempo, stress, and vowel reduction in American English. JASA 90. 18161827.
Fromkin, Victoria A. (ed.) (1985). Phonetic linguistics: essays in honor of Peter Ladefoged. New York: Academic Press.
Gordon, Matthew (2004). Syllable weight. In Hayes et al. (2004). 277312.
Gordon, Matthew (2006). Syllable weight: phonetics, phonology, typology. New York & London: Routledge.
Hahn, Reinhard F. (1991). Spoken Uyghur. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
Halle, Morris & Idsardi, William (1995). General properties of stress and metrical structure. In Goldsmith, John A. (ed.) The handbook of phonological theory. Oxford: Blackwell. 403443.
Ham, William H. (2001). Phonetic and phonological aspects of geminate timing. New York & London: Routledge.
Han, Mieko S. (1994)Acoustic manifestations of mora timing in Japanese. JASA 96. 7382.
Hankamer, Jorge, Lahiri, Aditi & Koreman, Jacques (1989). Perception of consonant length: voiceless stops in Turkish and Bengali. JPh 17. 283298.
Hansen, Benjamin B. (2004). Production of Persian geminate stops: effects of varying speaking rate. In Agwuele, Augustine, Warren, Willis & Park, Sang-Hoon (eds.) Proceedings of the 2003 Texas linguistics society conference. Somerville, Mass.: Cascadilla. 8695.
Hayes, Bruce (1989). Compensatory lengthening in moraic phonology. LI 20. 253306.
Hayes, Bruce (1995). Metrical stress theory: principles and case studies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Hayes, Bruce, Kirchner, Robert & Steriade, Donca (eds.) (2004). Phonetically based phonology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Idemaru, Kaori & Guion, Susan G. (2008). Acoustic covariants of length contrast in Japanese stops. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 38. 167186.
Jacobs, Haike (2003a). The emergence of quantity-sensitivity in Latin: secondary stress, Iambic Shortening, and theoretical implications for ‘mixed’ stress systems. In Holt, D. Eric (ed.) Optimality Theory and language change. Dordrecht: Kluwer. 229247.
Jacobs, Haike (2003b). Why preantepenultimate stress in Latin requires an OT-account. In Fikkert, Paula & Jacobs, Haike (eds.) Development in prosodic systems. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter. 395418.
Jacobs, Haike (2004). Rhythmic vowel deletion in OT: syncope in Latin. Probus 16. 6389.
Jannedy, Stefanie (1995). Gestural phasing as an explanation for vowel devoicing in Turkish. Ohio State University Working Papers in Linguistics 45. 5684.
Kavitskaya, Darya (2002). Compensatory lengthening: phonetics, phonology, diachrony. London & New York: Routledge.
Kawahara, Shigeto (2006). A faithfulness ranking projected from a perceptibility scale: the case of [+voice] in Japanese. Lg 82. 536574.
Keane, Elinor (2001). Echo words in Tamil. PhD dissertation, University of Oxford.
Keating, Patricia A. (1985). Universal phonetics and the organization of grammars. In Fromkin (1985). 115132.
Kingston, John & Diehl, Randy L. (1994). Phonetic knowledge. Lg 70. 419454.
Kingston, John, Kawahara, Shigeto, Chambless, Della, Mash, Daniel & Brenner-Alsop, Eve (2009). Contextual effects on the perception of duration. JPh 37. 297320.
Kluender, Keith R., Diehl, Randy L. & Wright, Beverly A. (1988). Vowel-length differences before voiced and voiceless consonants: an auditory explanation. JPh 16. 153169.
Kopkallı-Yavuz, Handan (2003). Interaction between syllable structure and vowel length: example from Turkish /a/. In Sumru Özsoy, A., Akar, Didar, Nakipoğlu-Demiralp, Mine, Erguvanlı-Taylan, E. Eser & Aksu-Koç, Ayhan (eds.) Studies in Turkish linguistics: proceedings of the 10th International Conference in Turkish Linguistics. Istanbul: Boğaziçi University Press.
Kuehn, David P. & Moll, Kenneth L. (1976). A cineradiographic study of VC and CV articulatory velocities. JPh 4. 303320.
Lahiri, Aditi & Hankamer, Jorge (1988). The timing of geminate consonants. JPh 16. 327338.
Lehiste, Ilse (1970). Suprasegmentals. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Lehtonen, Jaakko (1970). Aspects of quantity in Standard Finnish. Jyväskylä: Jyväskylä University Press.
Leumann, Manu (1977). Lateinische Laut- und Formenlehre. Munich: Beck.
Lindau, Mona (1985). The story of /r/. In Fromkin (1985). 157168.
Lindblom, Björn (1963). Spectrographic study of vowel reduction. JASA 35. 17731781.
Lindblom, Björn (1990). Explaining phonetic variation: a sketch of the H&H theory. In Hardcastle, William J. & Marchal, Alain (eds.) Speech production and speech modelling. Dordrecht: Kluwer. 403439.
Lindsay, W. M. (1894). The Latin language: an historical account of Latin sounds, stems, and flexions. Oxford: Clarendon.
Local, John & Simpson, Adrian P. (1999). Phonetic implementation of geminates in Malayalam nouns. In Ohala et al. (1999). 595598.
McCarthy, John J. & Prince, Alan (1993). Generalized alignment. Yearbook of Morphology 1993. 79153.
Maddieson, Ian (1985). Phonetic cues to syllabification. In Fromkin (1985). 203221.
Meiser, Gerhard (1998). Historische Laut- und Formenlehre der lateinischen Sprache. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.
Mester, Armin (1994). The quantitative trochee in Latin. NLLT 12. 161.
Miller, Patricia Donegan (1972). Vowel neutralization and vowel reduction. CLS 8. 482489.
Moon, Seung-Jae & Lindblom, Björn (1994). Interaction between duration, context, and speaking style in English stressed vowels. JASA 96. 4055.
Niedermann, Max (1997). Précis de phonétique historique du latin. 5th edn.Paris: Klincksieck. (1st edn 1906.)
Ohala, John J. (1981). The listener as a source of sound change. In Masek, C. S., Hendrick, R. A. & Miller, M. F. (eds.) Papers from the parasession on language and behavior. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society. 178203.
Ohala, John J., Hasegawa, Yoko, Ohala, Manjari, Granville, Daniel & Bailey, Ashlee C. (eds.) (1999). Proceedings of the 14th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences. Berkeley: Department of Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley.
Ohala, Manjari (2007). Experimental methods in the study of Hindi geminate consonants. In Solé, Maria-Josep, Beddor, Patrice Speeter & Ohala, Manjari (eds.) Experimental approaches to phonology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 351368.
Padgett, Jaye & Tabain, Marija (2005). Adaptive Dispersion Theory and phonological vowel reduction in Russian. Phonetica 62. 1454.
Pickett, Emily R., Blumstein, Sheila E. & Burton, Martha W. (1999). Effects of speaking rate on the singleton/geminate consonant contrast in Italian. Phonetica 56. 135157.
Pind, Jörgen (1995). Speaking rate, voice-onset time, and quantity: the search for higher-order invariants for two Icelandic speech cues. Perception and Psychophysics 57. 291304.
Prince, Alan & Smolensky, Paul (2004). Optimality Theory: constraint interaction in generative grammar. Malden, Mass. & Oxford: Blackwell.
Ramus, Franck, Nespor, Marina & Mehler, Jacques (1999). Correlates of linguistic rhythm in the speech signal. Cognition 73. 265292.
Recasens, Daniel, Pallarès, Maria Dolors & Fontdevila, Jordi (1997). A model of lingual coarticulation based on articulatory constraints. JASA 102. 544561.
Savithri, S. R. (2009). Speech rhythm in Indian languages. Dr N. Rathna Oration, presented at the 41st Indian Speech and Hearing Association Conference, Pune.
Sen, Ranjan (2011a). Diachronic phonotactic development in Latin: the work of syllable structure or linear sequence? In Cairns, Charles E. & Raimy, Eric (eds.) Handbook of the syllable. Leiden & Boston: Brill. 417441.
Sen, Ranjan (2011b). Feet and phonological levels in early Latin. Paper presented at the 8th Old World Conference in Phonology, Marrakech.
Sen, Ranjan (2012). Exon's Law and the Latin syncopes. In Probert, Philomen & Willi, Andreas (eds.) Laws and rules in Indo-European. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 205226.
Sen, Ranjan (forthcoming). Syllable and segment in Latin. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sihler, Andrew L. (1995). New comparative grammar of Greek and Latin. New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Smith, Caroline L. (1991). The timing of vowel and consonant gestures in Italian and Japanese. InProceedings of the 12th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences. Vol. 4. Aix-en-Provence: Université de Provence. 234237.
Smith, Caroline L. (1995). Prosodic patterns in the coordination of vowel and consonant gestures. In Connell, Bruce & Arvaniti, Amalia (eds.) Phonology and phonetic evidence: papers in laboratory phonology IV. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 205222.
Sommer, Ferdinand & Pfister, Raimund (1977). Handbuch der lateinischen Laut- und Formenlehre: eine Einführung in das sprachwissenschaftliche Studium des Lateins. 4th edn.Heidelberg: Winter. (1st edn 1902 by Ferdinand Sommer.)
Steriade, Donca (1999). Phonetics in phonology: the case of laryngeal neutralization. UCLA Working Papers in Linguistics 2: Papers in Phonology 3. 25145.
Stevens, Kenneth N. & House, Arthur S. (1963). Perturbation of vowel articulations by consonantal context: an acoustical study. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 6. 111128.
Stuart-Smith, Jane (2004). Phonetics and philology: sound change in Italic. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Vaan, Michiel A. C. de (2008). Etymological dictionary of Latin and the other Italic languages. Leiden: Brill.
Walde, Alois & Hofmann, J. B. (1938–56). Lateinisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 3 vols. 3rd edn. Heidelberg: Winter. (1st edn 1906.)
Wright, Richard (2004). A review of perceptual cues and cue robustness. In Hayes et al. (2004). 3457.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0952-6757
  • EISSN: 1469-8188
  • URL: /core/journals/phonology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed