The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 11/13 - Erin Olson (MIT)

Speaker: Erin Olson (MIT)
Title: Influence of schwa duration on stress/pitch patterns in Passamaquoddy
Date/Time: Monday, 13 November, 5:00-6:30pm
Location: 32-D831

Passamaquoddy-Maliseet (Eastern Algonquian; Maine and New Brunswick) is well-known for the fact that reduced vowels are in many cases invisible to the stress/pitch accent system (LeSourd 1988, 1993; Hagstrom 1995). While previous analyses have assumed that this invisibility is due to some sort of structural deficiency of these vowels, I assume that it is at least in part due to the phonetics of stress/pitch accent. I will present a preliminary phonetic study of pitch and vowel duration in the language, based on data from the Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Dictionary Project (Language Keepers & Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Dictionary Project 2016). I will show that the syllables marked as stressed in the literature crucially involve a rise in pitch, and I hypothesize that the odd behaviour of schwa can be derived from the fact that it is too short to host either this rise in pitch or a fall from one pitch to the next. A brief sketch of this hypothesis in OT is provided.