Naomi Nagy

Linguistics at U of T

Stress & schwa in Faetar
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Stress & schwa in Faetar

Faetar is a Francoprovençal dialect which has been spoken in two small villages in Apulia for approximately 600 years. Due to contact with Italian, Faetar has adapted many properties of Italian (Nagy 1996). However, one way in which it remains distinct from standard Italian is that the reduced vowel schwa frequently appears in unstressed syllables. The phonemic status of schwa is unclear. In this paper, I explore two possible accounts of the prosodic structure of Faetar.

The first, the Stress Hypothesis, is that primary word stress is marked in the lexicon. In that case, vowel quantity (long vs. short vowel) is predictable: pre-tonic vowels (variably) reduce to schwa, post-tonic vowels categorically reduce to schwa, and tonic vowels are never schwa. In this scenario, schwa is not phonemic. The Length Hypothesis, that vowel quantity is lexically marked, is a possible alternative. In that case, the location of word stress is fully predictable: it always appears on the rightmost full vowel. Schwa then would be phonemically distinct from other vowels.

Like many nonstandard languages and dialects, Faetar has no orthographic system or long-term historical record. This eliminates many of the tools often used by linguists to determine underlying forms. Therefore, other methods are required. In this paper, I make use of previous treatments of raddoppiamento sintattico (RS) in order to illustrate that the Stress Hypothesis is viable and the Length Hypothesis is not. Acoustic evidence showing that RS does occur in Faetar is described.

By examining the pattern of use of RS, a pattern borrowed from standard Italian into Faetar, insight is gained into the relationship of stress and vowel quantity. The reliance of this process on full but not phonemically long vowels provides the basis for an argument that vowel length is not phonemically marked in Faetar, which means that stress must be lexically marked.

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