Topics in the reconstruction and development of Indo -European accent

Ronald I Kim, University of Pennsylvania


Recent advances in metrical theory have opened the possibility of applying the resulting insights to the reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) accentual system and its development in the individual Indo-European (IE) languages. After introducing the principles of the “brackets-and-edges” framework of Idsardi (1992) and Halle and Idsardi (1995), the accentual categories of the PIE noun and verb are examined and analyzed in terms of underlying accent of roots, suffixes, and endings. As Halle (1997) has proposed, the parameter settings for determining surface stress in PIE are the same as those of IE languages such as Russian: stress falls on the first accented syllable head of the (phonological) word; if the word contains no accented morphemes, it receives default initial stress. The properties of the archaic ablaut- and stress-alternating paradigms, as well as of thematic nouns and verbs, may thus be represented as the realization of different combinations of accentual specifications: acrostatic roots, for instance, are accented and surface with constant root-stress, whereas in amphikinetic paradigms the root and suffix are unaccented, with default initial stress if the ending is unaccented and ending-stress if the ending is accented. The main outlines of this system, which is largely reconstructed on the basis of Sanskrit, have been preserved in ancient Greek: despite numerous innovations, both the parameter settings and the accentuation of particular morphemes survive in the noun and the non-finite forms of the verb. In the Balto-Slavic languages, the complex alternations of stress, intonation, and length may be derived without serious difficulty from PIE. In place of a rightward stress shift from a non-acute syllable, Proto-Balto-Slavic has undergone stress retraction to acute syllables; this hypothesis accounts for a number of previously unexplained peculiarities. The accentuation of the Balto-Slavic nominal case endings continues the inherited PIE distinction between “strong” (unaccented) and “weak” (accented) endings in the non-thematic stem classes, which has spread to the thematic stems independently in the two branches. Finally, the stress alternations in the simple thematic present receive a plausible historical explanation and shed new light on the accentuation of this category in (post-)PIE; the relationship among present and aorist formations and accentual paradigms in Slavic is revealed to be the direct continuation of a classical IE pattern.

Subject Area

Linguistics|Ancient languages

Recommended Citation

Kim, Ronald I, "Topics in the reconstruction and development of Indo -European accent" (2002). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3054962.