Proto-Balto-Slavic Language - Balto-Slavic Accentual System - Notation


What follows is a short overview of the commonly used diacritical marks for Balto-Slavic (BSl.) accents and/or prosodic features, all based on the example letter a. In each case, there is a crude characterization of the pronunciation in terms of High, Mid, and Low-tone sequences.

  • Lithuanian: "falling"/HL (acute) á, "rising"/H(L)H (circumflex) ã, "short"/H à
  • Latvian (on all syllables): "falling"/HL à, "rising"/LH (or "lengthened") ã, "broken"/L'H â
  • Slovenian: "falling"/HL â, "rising"/LH á, "short"/H ȁ (sometimes also à)
  • Serbo-Croatian: "short falling"/HL ȁ, "long falling"/HML ȃ, "short rising"/LH à, "long rising"/LMH á, "posttonic length" ā
  • Common Slavic: "short falling"/HL (short circumflex) ȁ, "long falling"/HML (long circumflex) ȃ, "acute"/LH (old acute, old rising") , "neoacute"/L(M)H (old acute, old rising") á or ã

In Croatian dialects, especially Čakavian and Posavian, the "new acute" (neoacute, the "new rising") is usually markied with tilde, as ã. Short neoacute ("short new rising") is marked as à. Neoacutes represent post–Proto-Slavic development.

Here is a reverse key to help decode the various diacritical marks:

  • acute accent (á): Usually long rising and/or BSl. acute. Neoacute in some Slavic reconstructions. The default accent when a language has only one phonemic prosodic feature (e.g. stress in Russian, length in Czech). Marks long falling in Lithuanian because this derives from BSl. acute.
  • grave accent (à): Usually short rising, or simply short.
  • circumflex accent (â): BSl. circumflex in reconstructions. Broken tone in modern Baltic (Latvian and Žemaitian Lithuanian), i.e. a vowel with a glottal stop in the middle (derives from BSl. acute!). Long falling in modern Slavic languages.
  • tilde (ã): Alternative notation for BSl. circumflex in reconstructions. Long rising in various modern languages (Lithuanian, Latvian, archaic Serbo-Croatian dialects such as Chakavian), deriving from diverse sources: Lithuanian < BSl. circumflex, Latvian < BSl. acute, Serbo-Croatian dialects < long Common Slavic neoacute (from accentual retraction).
  • double grave accent (ȁ): Usually short falling (mostly in Slavic). Mnemonic: Derived from circumflex (= long falling) by converting the "acute" portion of the accent to a grave, much as a simple acute (= long rising) is shortened by conversion to a grave.
  • double acute accent (): Old acute in some Slavic reconstructions. (As opposed to single acute for Slavic neoacute in reconstructions. Based on the fact that the old acute was shortened in Common Slavic.)
  • macron (ā): Vowel length, particularly in syllables without tone (e.g. unstressed syllables in Slavic).
  • breve (ă): Vowel shortness.

Note that there are multiple competing systems used for different languages and different periods. The most important are:

  1. Three-way system of Proto-Slavic, Proto-Balto-Slavic, modern Lithuanian: Acute tone (á) vs. circumflex tone (â or ã) vs. short accent (à).
  2. Four-way Serbo-Croatian system, also used in Slovenian and often in Slavic reconstructions: long rising (á), short rising (à), long falling (â), short falling (ȁ).
  3. Two-way length: long (ā) vs. short (ă).
  4. Length only, as in Czech and Slovak: long (á) vs. short (a).
  5. Stress only, as in Russian, Ukrainian and Bulgarian: stressed (á) vs. unstressed (a).

Numerous non-prosodic marks are also found in various languages in combinations with certain letters. The various combinations of letter and diacritic should normally be viewed as single symbols, just like simple symbols (a, b, c).

Examples on vowels:

  • ogonek (ą): With a rightward-curving hook, cf. the leftward-curving cedilla (ç): Vowel nasalization. In standard Lithuanian, the nasalization is historical and the vowels are nowadays simply reflected as long vowels; but some dialects still preserve nasalized vowels. Occasionally used to indicate low-mid quality in e, o.
  • overdot (ė ȯ), underdot (ẹ ọ): High-mid vowel quality, distinguished from plain e o indicating low-mid vowels . Overdot is normally found in Lithuanian, underdot in Slovenian.
  • inverted breve below (e̯ i̯ o̯ u̯), indicating non-syllabic vowels (often, the second part of a diphthong).
  • haček (ě): With pointed v shape, rather than the rounded u shape of the breve: ě in Slavic reconstructions is a vowel known as yat, distinct in length and later quality from simple e (originally longer and lower; later, longer and higher in many dialects); however ě in Czech indicates a simple e with palatalization of the preceding consonant.
  • ô, ó, ů originally indicated a high-mid or diphthongized in various Slavic languages (respectively: Slovak/dialectal Russian; Polish/Upper Sorbian/Lower Sorbian; Czech). It now indicates in Polish and long in Czech.

Examples on consonants:

  • Most diacritics on consonants indicate various sorts of palatal sounds, e.g. by use of an acute accent (ć ǵ ḱ ĺ ń ŕ ś ź), a comma (ģ ķ ļ ņ), a haček (č ď ľ ň ř š ť ž) or an overbar (đ). These indicate either:
    • palatoalveolars (č š ž): These have a "hushing" pronunciation, as in English kitchen, mission, vision, less palatal than the sounds indicated by ć ś ź;
    • alveolopalatals (ć đ ś ź, e.g. in Polish and Serbo-Croatian);
    • palatal stops (voiceless ḱ/ķ/ť and voiced ǵ/ģ/ď" in Macedonian, Latvian and Czech, respectively);
    • a palatal nasal (ń ņ ň);
    • a palatal lateral (ĺ ļ ľ); or
    • a palatalized trill (ŕ, also ř in Czech specifically for a fricative trill).
  • In Slovak, ń and ŕ indicate doubled rather than palatal(ized) consonants.
  • In western West Slavic (Polish, Cassubian, Upper Sorbian and Lower Sorbian), ż indicates a voiced retroflex sibilant . (Other such sibilants are indicated by digraphs, e.g. cz, sz.)
  • In western West Slavic, ł indicates a sound that was once a dark (velarized) l, but now is mostly pronounced .

Read more about this topic:  Proto-Balto-Slavic Language, Balto-Slavic Accentual System

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