Vol. 25:1 (2008) ► pp.1–19
Phonetic explanation without compromise
The evolution of Mussau syncope
Blust (2005, 2007a, 2007b) questions the phonetic motivation of a number of well-attested sound changes. One sound change in this class is the purported case of stressed vowel syncope in Mussau, an Oceanic language (Blust 1984, 2001, 2007a). Regular syncopes typically target unstressed vowels. By contrast, loss of stressed vowels is difficult to motivate, due to their inherent prominence. Close inspection of Mussau historical phonology suggests that, at its origins, syncope was limited to unstressed vowels, with subsequent developments obscuring its original phonetic motivation. Under the proposed analysis, the Neogrammarian insistence on phonetically motivated sound change is maintained.
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