Re: [tied] Germanic stress

From: tgpedersen@...
Message: 8193
Date: 2001-07-31

--- In cybalist@..., "Piotr Gasiorowski" <gpiotr@...> wrote:
> The passage from one stress system to another can be gradual thanks
to the existence of secondary stress. Imagine a language in which the
location of primary stress is lexically determined (and so cannot
always be predicted from the segmental and morphological composition
of the word), but which develops secondary stress on the root-initial
syllable, playing a demarcative function (indicating the beginning of
the central morpheme). Now the tricky thing about stress is that it
is RELATIVE. Speakers use a combination of phonetic cues (pitch,
duration, loudness and segmental features) to make certain syllables
perceptually prominent. Usually, a syllable is considered to be
stressed if it is more prominent than any adjacent syllable. Primary
stress (within a given domain) requires some extra prominence, e.g. a
change of pitch in addition to greater loudness, increased duration
and full vocalism. If a neighbouring syllable, or any other syllable
in the same word, receives more prominence, e.g. in connected speech,
or for the sake of emphasis, it may "steal" stress from its original
> For example, English <thirteen> is end-stressed if pronounced in
isolation, but English has the so-called Rhythm Rule (or Iambic
Reversal) that modifies the stress pattern of certain words to ensure
rhythmic stress alternation ("strong-weak strong" rather than "weak-
strong strong"). As a result, in the phrase <thirteen points> the
main stress is on <points> and the secondary stress is on <thir->,
while <-teen> loses its rhythmic prominence.
> The Germanic "tendency" I alluded to would have consisted in
placing obligatory emphasis (manifesting itself as a burst of
initiatory energy) on the root syllable. This was at first
superimposed on the inherited stress pattern, leading to a tug-of-war
between two rival stress loci (if there WAS a mismatch, i.e. if the
original stress was non-initial) and to a gradual (word-by-word,
speaker-by-speaker) increase of preference for the initial syllable
as the predictable location of PRIMARY stress.
> Stage I (pre-Germanic): *paté:r
> Stage II (after Grimm's Law): *faþé:r
> Stage III (just after Verner's Law): *fadé:r
> Stage IV: free variation between *fáde:r and *fadé:r, with the
lexically listed stress pattern gradually phased out in favour of
predictable root-initial stress (vive la simplicité!).
> Stage V (and beyond): *fáde:r (consistent initial stress) > *fáder
> ['fad&r] (the second syllable is gradually deprived of all phonetic
cues that could be interpreted as correlates of stress, such as vowel
length or "full" quality).
> Far from being speculative, this is a frequently reenacted
scenario. The question is only whether Proto-Germanic (defined as the
most recent common ancestor of the known Germanic languages)
represented Stage IV or V. It doesn't matter much, since the internal
dynamics of the process makes Stage V follow Stage IV almost
inevitably, so if the incipient shift was not completed before the
fragmentation of Proto-Germanic, the daughter languages would have
carried it out nevertheless.
> Piotr
I've noticed that those languages that use initial stress in North
Europe: Germanic, Baltic Finnic, Latvian, all have traditional poetry
that use alliteration. The obvious thought is that the causality here
is from language to poetry: In an initial-stress language
alliteration is more natural that end-rhyme.
But what if it's the other way round. In a traditional society poetry
is the storehouse of thought. Suppose a substrate culture had
alliterating poetry, and the style of recital spread to everyday