Vowel Length from Latin to Romance

ISBN : 9780199656554

Michele Loporcaro
328 Pages
163 x 237 mm
Pub date
Jul 2015
Oxford Studies in Diachronic and Historical Linguistics
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This book investigates the changes that affected vowel length during the development of Latin into the Romance languages and dialects. In Latin, vowel length was contrastive (e.g. pila 'ball' vs. pila 'pile', like English bit vs. beat), but no modern Romance language has retained that same contrast. However, many non-standard Romance dialects (as well as French, up to the early 20th century) have developed novel vowel length contrasts, which are investigated in detail here. Unlike previous studies of this phenomenon, this book combines detailed historical evidence spanning three millennia (as attested by extant texts) with extensive data from present-day Romance varieties collected from first-hand fieldwork, which are subjected to both phonological and experimental phonetic analysis. Professor Loporcaro puts forward a detailed account of the loss of contrastive vowel length in late Latin, showing that this happened through the establishment of a process which lengthened all stressed vowels in open syllables, as in modern Italian casa ['ka:sa]. His analysis has implications for many of the most widely-debated issues relating to the origin of novel vowel length contrasts in Romance, which are also shown to have been preserved to different degrees in different areas. The detailed investigation of the rise and fall of vowel length in dozens of lesser-known (non-standard) varieties is crucial in understanding the development of this aspect of Romance historical phonology, and will be of interest not only to researchers and students in comparative Romance linguistics, but also, more generally, to phonologists and those interested in historical linguistics beyond the Latin-Romance language family.


1. Introduction
2. Vowel length in the Latin-Romance transition
3. The development of VL in Romance
4. The analysis of Northern Romance vowel length
5. Dialect variation and comparative reconstruction
6. In lieu of a conclusion
Appendix: Language and dialect area maps

About the author: 

Michele Loporcaro is Professor of Romance Linguistics at the University of Zurich. He held previous positions at the Universities of Padova and Cosenza, in addition to visiting professorships in several universities in Europe and the USA and visiting fellowships at Magdalen College Oxford (2012) and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (2013-14). In 2012, he received the Premio Antonio Feltrinelli for his work in Italian linguistics. His research interests include historical linguistics, linguistic historiography, and the phonology, morphology, and syntax of Italo-Romance linguistic varieties. His work has been published widely in many journals and he is the author of several books, including Profilo linguistico dei dialetti italiani (Laterza 2009; 3rd edn. 2013), Sintassi comparata dell'accordo participiale romanzo (Rosenberg & Sellier 1998), and L'origine del raddoppiamento fonosintattico. Saggio di fonologia diacronica romanza. (Francke 1997).

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