The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 11/12 - Hrayr Khanjian: “Formerly stressed vowels in Western Armenian”

This week’s Phonology Circle will feature a presentation by Hrayr Khanjian.

Title: Formerly stressed vowels in Western Armenian
Time: Wed 11/12, 5pm, 32-D831

In this talk, I examine the stressed and unstressed vowels of related forms of Western Armenian. Stressed high vowels [i] and [u] either change to [ə], as seen in (1) or delete, seen in (2) and a stressed diphthong [uj] changes to [u], as seen in (3), when stress shifts off of them. The rest of the vowels and diphthongs (mostly) are unaffected.

    • “letter” [kír] → [kər-él] “to write”
    • “lie” [súd] → [səd-él] “to make false”
    • “monkey” [gabíg] → [gabg-él] “to mime”
    • “clean”[makúr] → [makr-él] “clean”
    • “color” [kújn] → [kun-avór] “colorful”
    • “culture” [məʃagújt] → [məʃagut-ajín] “cultural”

Many languages exhibit phonological differences between stressed and unstressed vowels. There are languages, like Catalan, Bulgarian and Russian, where all unstressed vowels reduce. In another set of languages, like Palauan, Romanian and Armenian, only a certain set of vowels that once bore stress reduce when stress shifts.

Unlike Romanian and Palauan, Armenian has a phonological process of ə-epenthesis. I argue that the surface schwas that seem to be corresponding to the once stressed high vowels are also part of this epenthesis process. Without positing a new phonological mechanism to account for the high vowel disappearance, I incorporate the derived environment effect into the already present phonology of Western Armenian.