From Pitch Accent to Stress in Belarusian and Ukrainian Dialects

Christina Bethin, SUNY, Stony Brook

In the Snov River basin north of Chernihiv in Ukraine and south of Homel' in Belarus exist dialects with an unusual type of word prosody. There is extra vowel length and a musical intonation on the immediately pretonic syllable if the vowel under stress is a high vowel (Belaja 1974, Kurylo 1924, Kryvicki 1959, Vojtovic 1972), e.g., va:dy 'water', gen sg vs. vada 'water', nom sg.

This paper argues that 1) pretonic lengthening and variations in pitch are the result of tone mapping requirements, and 2) the fixed tonal contour of rising-falling pitch (low-high-low) represents a transitional stage in the development of a stress system from a pitch accent system. The crucial step in this process is the retraction of high tone in originally accented word forms which led to the neutraliation of the rising vs. falling pitch contrast. As a result, vowels under stress now bear a low tone or falling pitch in these dialects and the pitch rise is relegated to the preceding syllable. Because pitch rises take more time than pitch falls within the same excusrsion (Ohala and Ewan 1973, Ohala 1978, Sundberg 1979), the rising pitch is correlated with phonetic duration. This extra duration required for the mapping of low-high (LH, rising pitch) sometimes, depending on the type of vowel under stress, falls onto the pretonic syllable.

These Nadsnovski dialects take stress to be the marker of phonological word prominence but they retain vestiges of a pitch accent system by implementing stress via a fixed (LHL) tonal contour.


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