LINGUIST List 8.1623

Wed Nov 12 1997

Sum: Romance Verb Stress

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <martylinguistlist.org>


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  1. Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy, Romance Verb Stress: Summary

Message 1: Romance Verb Stress: Summary

Date: Tue, 11 Nov 1997 14:48:38 +1300
From: Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy <a.carstairs-mccarthyling.canterbury.ac.nz>
Subject: Romance Verb Stress: Summary


I would like to thank the following people (in no particular order)
for their replies to my query: Jose Ignacio Hualde, James Giangola,
Rick McCallister, Pier Marco Bertinetto, Colin Whiteley, Ioana
Chitoran, Elvira G. DiFabio.

Ioana Chitoran confirms that Romanian is like Italian both in having
the possibility of stress on the antepenultimate syllable of a verb
form (i.e. the penultimate syllable of the verb root) and in having
stress-bearing root extensions (-esc- or -ez-) in some verbs. She
refers to her 1997 Cornell dissertation. Elvira DiFabio also mentions
her 1990 Harvard dissertation, 'The morphology of the verbal infix
/-isk-/ in Italian and in Romance', and an article by herself and
Burzio in _Issues and theory in Romance linguistics: selected papers
from the Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages XXIII, April 1-4,
1993_ edited by Michael L. Mazzola (Washington, D.C. : Georgetown
University Press, c1994).

In Spanish and Portuguese, it seems that I was correct in thinking
that the stress cannot generally be further back than the last
syllable of the root. James Giangola mentions one possible exception
in Spanish, depending on how the yod is analyzed: _odiar_ 'hate',
which arguably gets antepenultimate stress in _Odio, Odia_
etc. 'I/(s)he hate(s)' etc. (The Portuguese counterpart of this verb
gets unequivocal penultimate, or root-final, stress in the
corresponding forms: _o.dEI.o, o.dEI.a_ (periods mark syllable
boundaries).)

As for Catalan, my hunch is confirmed -- but only just! Jose Ignacio
Hualde states: "The crucial case is indeed Catalan. Catalan verbal
stress is much more like Spanish/Portuguese than like Italian. Unlike
the other Ibero-Romance languages, however, it does have a couple of
subjunctive forms with "irregular" stress: _s`apiga_ "that I/he/she
know" and _c`apiga_ "that I/he/she it fit" (Sp. _sepa, quepa_). In the
indicative stress follows the same rules as in Spanish (i.e. there are
no forms like Italian _`abita_.)"

What can one conclude from this? My tentative explanation, if my
hunch were confirmed, was on the following lines. Romance languages
differ according to whether idiosyncratic or lexically marked stress
*on verb roots* is possible. (It seems to be possible *on nouns*
everywhere except in French.) One kind of idiosyncratic stress
behaviour is stress-shyness or unstressability, necessitating the
appearance of a stress-attracting root extension. (This extension is
a reflex of the Latin inchoative suffix, as Rick McCallister says, but
its distribution has nothing to do with inchoative meaning in modern
Romance languages.) So it is natural that stress-shyness should show
up in just those languages where verb roots are allowed to display
another kind of idiosyncratic stress, viz. by having stress on the
penultimate rather than the final root syllable. But two things make
me doubt this explanation. One is the marginality of root-penultimate
stress in Catalan, just mentioned. The other is a further fact about
Italian.

Pier Marco Bertinetto points out that in Italian "... there is ... a
set of verbs which present both an -are and an -ire conjugation, such
as _intorbidare/ire_ (same meaning), or _arrossare/ire_ (two different
meanings). As far I can see, in all these cases the -ire version takes
the -isc augment. So, one thing is at least clear: the -isc augment is
not there in order to prevent a certain root from being stressed,
because of some specific property possessed by this root; rather, it
is there because many verbs of the -ire conjugation require it." He
concludes: "As to your generalization: it might be a valid one, but I
see no direct connection between the two phenomena (A and B). To me,
this looks like an accidental correlation." That seems the safest
conclusion, even though (for me) it is somewhat disappointing!


Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy
Department of Linguistics 
University of Canterbury
Private Bag 4800
Christchurch, New Zealand
phone (work) +64-3-364 2211; (home) +64-3-355 5108
fax +64-3-364 2969
e-mail a.c-mccling.canterbury.ac.nz
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