Daniel Recasens: The story of stressed schwa. Synchronic and diachronic aspects
Seminari del CLT
The story of stressed schwa. Synchronic and diachronic aspects
DANIEL RECASENS (UAB)
Divendres, 19 d’octubre de 2018
Data from the world’s languages gathered in the present study reveal that the presence of schwa in stressed position is not an anomaly. This finding is somehow remarkable since schwa is supposed to result from articulatory reduction of one or more peripheral vowels in unstressed syllables. In spite of occurring in stressed position, the mid central vowel resembles unstressed schwa in many respects: it is highly variable along the fronting and, less so, height dimensions as a function of factors such as distinctive vowel length and consonantal context; it is extremely short and has a very low intensity, which accounts for why it is prone to show up in longer syllables (checked vs open) and in longer words (proparoxytones vs paroxytones and oxytones), and why it may receive stress only if all vowels in the word are also schwa. These phonetic characteristics also account for why stressed schwa originates from relatively short vowels, mostly if mid high front and occurring in positions favouring segmental shortening. Stressed schwa may also originate through assimilation to unstressed schwa (which may be traced back to /e/ rather than to /a/ in the languages under investigation) and to contextual consonants involving tongue retraction, nasalization or labiality. Stressed schwa is typically replaced by (mid) low vowels, which may have an articulatory or acoustically-based motivation and is in contrast with the mid high front quality of the vowels which it generally derives from.