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Article

Rhythm in the Romance Languages  

Pier Marco Bertinetto

Speech rhythm is a popular research topic but a still poorly understood phenomenon. A critical assessment of the algorithmic tools developed in the last two decades to analyze rhythm in natural languages shows that they can at best lead to a topological arrangement of the languages to be compared, with no ambition to actually offer objective and absolute measures. Besides, all available tools are heavily influenced by any source of variability, in particular: speech rate, speech style (most notably, spontaneous vs. read), and even speaker identity. Although this shows their high sensitivity to the input details, it raises severe doubts as for the actual relevance of the comparative results obtained in the study of different languages. Future research will have to learn to overcome these weaknesses. Most importantly, readers should be alerted to the false idol of a common Romance rhythmic footprint. Close inspection of the prosodic characteristics of the main Romance languages indicates that the differences are indeed remarkable and likely to feed diverging rhythmical behaviors. Besides, one should take into account the vast intrafamily variability, up to the tiniest local vernaculars, which often diverge in extraordinary ways from the ‘roof’ language supposed to constitute a sort of common denominator.

Article

Phonological Variation and Change in Romanian  

Ioana Chitoran

Romanian stands out from its sister Romance languages through the conditions of its historical evolution. It has developed in isolation from the other Romance languages, and in cultural and linguistic contact with various non-Romance populations. The history of writing in Romanian, and the earliest preserved texts, dating from the 16th century, also reflect this rather unique heritage. The main dialectal division is marked geographically by the Danube river. The variety developed north of the Danube forms the Daco-Romanian group, while the variety developed south of the Danube includes Aromanian and Megleno-Romanian. The most characteristic changes affecting consonants in the development of Romanian include several patterns of palatalization (with or without affrication, depending on the segments’ place and manner of articulation), the emergence of labial-coronal clusters as part of a more general preference for labials, and rhotacism, a major feature of nonstandard varieties. Major vocalic changes include patterns of diphthongization, vowel raising before nasals and in the context of trills, which led to the development of two phonemic central vowels, /ɨ/ and /ʌ/. Many of these patterns show variation among different varieties. In all varieties of Romanian, vowel alternations are involved in morpho-phonological alternations. The stress pattern of modern Romanian follows the stress pattern of Balkan Romance. The standard and nonstandard varieties differ with respect to their intonation patterns, particularly in the case of yes/no questions.

Article

The Phonology of Compounds  

Irene Vogel

A number of recent developments in phonological theory, beginning with The Sound Pattern of English, are particularly relevant to the phonology of compounds. They address both the phonological phenomena that apply to compound words and the phonological structures that are required as the domains of these phenomena: segmental and nonsegmental phenomena that operate within each member of a compound separately, as well as at the juncture between the members of compounds and throughout compounds as a whole. In all cases, what is crucial for the operation of the phonological phenomena of compounds is phonological structure, in terms of constituents of the Prosodic Hierarchy, as opposed to morphosyntactic structure. Specifically, only two phonological constituents are required, the Phonological Word, which provides the domain for phenomena that apply to the individual members of compounds and at their junctures, and a larger constituent that groups the members of compounds together. The nature of the latter is somewhat controversial, the main issue being whether or not there is a constituent in the Prosodic Hierarchy between the Phonological Word and the Phonological Phrase. When present, this constituent, the Composite Group (revised from the original Clitic Group), includes the members of compounds, as well as “stray” elements such as clitics and “Level 2” affixes. In its absence, compounds, and often the same “stray” elements, are analyzed as a type of Recursive Phonological Word, although crucially, the combinations of such element do not exhibit the same properties as the basic Phonological Word.

Article

Typological Diversity Within the Romance Languages  

Davide Ricca

The Romance languages, despite their overall similarity, display interesting internal diversity which can be captured only very partially by looking at the six major standard languages, as typological databases often do. This diversity spans over all the levels of linguistic analysis, from phonology to morphology and syntax. Rather than making a long list of features, with no space to go much beyond their mere mention, the article focusses on just four main areas in a little more detail, trying to develop, if minimally, a discussion on their theoretical and methodological import. The comparison with the full-world typological background given by the WALS Online shows that the differences within Romance may reach the level of general typological relevance. While this is probably not the case in their rather mainstream segmental phonology, it surely holds regarding nominal pluralization and the syntax of negation, which are both areas where the Romance languages have often distanced themselves quite significantly from their common ancestor, Latin. The morphological marking of nominal plural displays four values out of the seven recorded in WALS, adding a further one unattested there, namely subtraction; the negation strategies, although uniformly particle-like, cover all the five values found in WALS concerning linear order. Finally, Romance languages suggest several intriguing issues related with head-marking and dependent-marking constructions, again innovating against the substantially dependent-marking uniformity characteristic of Latin.

Article

Phonological Variation and Change in Brazilian Portuguese  

Elisa Battisti

Brazilian Portuguese is the native language of more than 200 million people living in Brazil. Spoken in South America since around the year 1500, Brazilian Portuguese has peculiar phonological traits, many of them variable. The extensive language contact that has taken place in Brazil caused Brazilian Portuguese to break up into regional dialects. Various phonological processes affect Brazilian Portuguese at the segmental and suprasegmental levels. Some of the processes target consonants, such as the regressive palatalization of /t, d/, the fricatization of /r/ in syllabic onset; some processes target vowels, such as the raising and lowering of unstressed /e, o/ vowels; others target the intonation of utterances, such as the rising of the nuclear stress of yes–no questions. The results of several empirical studies on varieties of Brazilian Portuguese show that not all of the processes correspond to change in progress in Brazilian Portuguese; some of them are stable variables. They also show that not every variable is present in all dialects and that some variables are socially salient and stigmatized. Compared to present European Portuguese, the phonology of Brazilian Portuguese seems to be conservative in some aspects, such as in the raising of vowels in unstressed, word-final syllables; innovative in others, such as in the vocalization of /l/ in syllabic coda.

Article

Topicalization in the Romance Languages  

Silvio Cruschina

Topic and topicalization are key notions to understand processes of syntactic and prosodic readjustments in Romance. More specifically, topicalization refers to the syntactic mechanisms and constructions available in a language to mark an expression as the topic of the sentence. Despite the lack of a uniform definition of topic, often based on the notions of aboutness or givenness, significant advances have been made in Romance linguistics since the 1990s, yielding a better understanding of the topicalization constructions, their properties, and their grammatical correlates. Prosodically, topics are generally described as being contained in independent intonational phrases. The syntactic and pragmatic characteristics of a specific topicalization construction, by contrast, depend both on the form of resumption of the dislocated topic within the clause and on the types of topic (aboutness, given, and contrastive topics). We can thus distinguish between hanging topic (left dislocation) (HTLD) and clitic left-dislocation (ClLD) for sentence-initial topics, and clitic right-dislocation (ClRD) for sentence-final dislocated constituents. These topicalization constructions are available in most Romance languages, although variation may affect the type and the obligatory presence of the resumptive element. Scholars working on topic and topicalization in the Romance languages have also addressed controversial issues such as the relation between topics and subjects, both grammatical (nominative) subjects and ‘oblique’ subjects such as dative experiencers and locative expressions. Moreover, topicalization has been discussed for medieval Romance, in conjunction with its alleged V2 syntactic status. Some topicalization constructions such as subject inversion, especially in the non-null subject Romance languages, and Resumptive Preposing may indeed be viewed as potential residues of medieval V2 property in contemporary Romance.

Article

Balkan-Romance  

Adina Dragomirescu

Balkan-Romance is represented by Romanian and its historical dialects: Daco-Romanian (broadly known as Romanian), Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Istro-Romanian (see article “Morphological and Syntactic Variation and Change in Romanian” in this encyclopedia). The external history of these varieties is often unclear, given the historical events that took place in the Lower Danubian region: the conquest of this territory by the Roman Empire for a short period and the successive Slavic invasions. Moreover, the earliest preserved writing in Romanian only dates from the 16th century. Between the Roman presence in the Balkans and the first attested text, there is a gap of more than 1,000 years, a period in which Romanian emerged, the dialectal separation took place, and the Slavic influence had effects especially on the lexis of Romanian. In the 16th century, in the earliest old Romanian texts, the language already displayed the main features of modern Romanian: the vowels /ə/ and /ɨ/; the nominative-accusative versus genitive-dative case distinction; analytical case markers, such as the genitive marker al; the functional prepositions a and la; the proclitic genitive-dative marker lui; the suffixal definite article; polydefinite structures; possessive affixes; rich verbal inflection, with both analytic and synthetic forms and with three auxiliaries (‘have’, ‘be’, and ‘want’); the supine, not completely verbalized at the time; two types of infinitives, with the ‘short’ one on a path toward becoming verbal and the ‘long’ one specializing as a noun; null subjects; nonfinite verb forms with lexical subjects; the mechanism for differential object marking and clitic doubling with slightly more vacillating rules than in the present-day language; two types of passives; strict negative concord; the SVO and VSO word orders; adjectives placed mainly in the postnominal position; a rich system of pronominal clitics; prepositions requiring the accusative and the genitive; and a large inventory of subordinating conjunctions introducing complement clauses. Most of these features are also attested in the trans-Danubian varieties (Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Istro-Romanian), which were also strongly influenced by the various languages they have entered in direct contact with: Greek, Albanian, Macedonian, Croatian, and so forth. These source languages have had a major influence in the vocabulary of the trans-Danubian varieties and certain consequences in the shape of their grammatical system. The differences between Daco-Romanian and the trans-Danubian varieties have also resulted from the preservation of archaic features in the latter or from innovations that took place only there.

Article

Phonetic Correlates of Sex, Gender and Sexual Orientation  

Adrian P. Simpson and Melanie Weirich

Speech carries a wealth of information about the speaker aside from any verbal message ranging from emotional state (sad, happy, bored, etc.) to illness (e.g., cold). Central features are a speaker’s gender and their sexual orientation. In part this is an inevitable product of differences in speakers’ anatomical dimensions, for example on average males have lower pitched voices than females due to longer, thicker vocal cords that vibrate more slowly. Arguably much more information has been learned by a speaker as they construct their gender or identify with a particular sexual orientation. Differences in speech already begin in young children, before any marked gender-related anatomical differences develop, emphasizing the importance of behavioral patterns. Gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation are encoded in speech in a range of different phonetic parameters relating to both phonation (activity of the vocal folds) and articulation (dimensions and configuration of the supraglottal cavities), as well as the use of pitch patterns and differences in voice quality (the way in which the vocal folds vibrate). Differences in the size and configuration of the supraglottal cavities give rise to differences in the size of the acoustic vowel space as well as subtle differences in the production of individual sounds, such as the sibilant [s]. Furthermore, significant and systematic gender-specific differences have been found in the average duration of utterances and individual sounds, which in turn have been found to have a complex relationship to the perception of tempo.

Article

Articulatory Phonology  

Marianne Pouplier

One of the most fundamental problems in research on spoken language is to understand how the categorical, systemic knowledge that speakers have in the form of a phonological grammar maps onto the continuous, high-dimensional physical speech act that transmits the linguistic message. The invariant units of phonological analysis have no invariant analogue in the signal—any given phoneme can manifest itself in many possible variants, depending on context, speech rate, utterance position and the like, and the acoustic cues for a given phoneme are spread out over time across multiple linguistic units. Speakers and listeners are highly knowledgeable about the lawfully structured variation in the signal and they skillfully exploit articulatory and acoustic trading relations when speaking and perceiving. For the scientific description of spoken language understanding this association between abstract, discrete categories and continuous speech dynamics remains a formidable challenge. Articulatory Phonology and the associated Task Dynamic model present one particular proposal on how to step up to this challenge using the mathematics of dynamical systems with the central insight being that spoken language is fundamentally based on the production and perception of linguistically defined patterns of motion. In Articulatory Phonology, primitive units of phonological representation are called gestures. Gestures are defined based on linear second order differential equations, giving them inherent spatial and temporal specifications. Gestures control the vocal tract at a macroscopic level, harnessing the many degrees of freedom in the vocal tract into low-dimensional control units. Phonology, in this model, thus directly governs the spatial and temporal orchestration of vocal tract actions.

Article

Tonogenesis  

Alexis Michaud and Bonny Sands

Tonogenesis is the development of distinctive tone from earlier non-tonal contrasts. A well-understood case is Vietnamese (similar in its essentials to that of Chinese and many languages of the Tai-Kadai and Hmong-Mien language families), where the loss of final laryngeal consonants led to the creation of three tones, and the tones later multiplied as voicing oppositions on initial consonants waned. This is by no means the only attested diachronic scenario, however. Besides well-known cases of tonogenesis in East Asia, this survey includes discussions of less well-known cases of tonogenesis from language families including Athabaskan, Chadic, Khoe and Niger-Congo. There is tonogenetic potential in various series of phonemes: glottalized versus plain consonants, unvoiced versus voiced, aspirated versus unaspirated, geminates versus simple (and, more generally, tense versus lax), and even among vowels, whose intrinsic fundamental frequency can transphonologize to tone. We draw attention to tonogenetic triggers that are not so well-known, such as [+ATR] vowels, aspirates and morphotonological alternations. The ways in which these common phonetic precursors to tone play out in a given language depend on phonological factors, as well as on other dimensions of a language’s structure and on patterns of language contact, resulting in a great diversity of evolutionary paths in tone systems. In some language families (such as Niger-Congo and Khoe), recent tonal developments are increasingly well understood, but working out the origin of the earliest tonal contrasts (which are likely to date back thousands of years earlier than tonogenesis among Sino-Tibetan languages, for instance) remains a mid- to long-term research goal for comparative-historical research.