Word Prosody in the Vladimir-Volga Basin Dialects of Russian

Christina Bethin, State University of New York, Stony Brook

Although dialectologists have consistently observed and described the existence of pretonic strength in Central Russian dialects, including Contemporary Standard Russian, the phenomenon is still not well understood. Recent research on vowel reduction/neutralization (Crosswhite 2001, Barnes 2002, Padgett and Tabain 2003, Padgett 2004) as well as previous work (Halle 1965, Davis 1970) does not as a rule deal with cases where the immediately pretonic syllable is as strong/long or stronger/longer than the stressed syllable itself. This type of word prosody characterizes the archaic dialects (Pereslavl'-Zalesskii, Vladimir, Rostov-Suzdal') of the Vladimir-Volga Basin dialect group (Al'muxamedova and Kul'saripova 1980, Orlova 1970, Vysotskij 1973) and it is critical to understanding the unstressed vocalism of Russian.

I will show that the crucial factor in maintaining pretonic length in these dialects is the requirement that stress be mapped as a fixed tonal contour (LHL) in which the pitch rise (LH) requires sufficient phonetic duration for its implementation (Ohala and Ewan 1973, Sundberg 1979, Zhang 2004) and that these dialects are thus similar to Belarusian and Ukrainian ones as analyzed in Bethin (2004). There is evidence to support the proposal that this type of word prosody is older than the dynamic stress prosody of Russian, and this in turn suggests that these archaic dialects may be one missing link in the transformation of the Common Slavic pitch accent system to an East Slavic stress-based one.

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