Tuesday, December 11, 2012

*VVV? No, *μμμ

Well, I found what I was looking for. I was down the right trail with my suggestion that *VVV was a constraint in Latin. The problem is that I wasn't going far enough: I needed to take it all the way to the mora.

While searching, I found a research paper that focuses on six constraints. Brennan, the author, clearly has sunk more time in than I have. He went far enough to get to *μμμ (at least in syllables that aren't word initial). Makes sense to me. What's cool is that it fits in nicely with what Allen suggests for syllable weights.
canem ➝ [kanẽ:]
And that is ok. The [e] is one mora and the [:] is the other. But then
canēs ➝ [kane:s]
Wait. Isn't that last syllable eμμsμ? No. According to Brennan, /s/ and /n/ aren't moraic. So we've really got is eμμs. And that's not violating *μμμ. So far so good. It gets better. Sort of.

*μμμ solves the [ju:li:] problem quite nicely. In the nominative we lose nothing, and the constraints explain it all.

* μμμ



After all [juμμμʊμs] never has more than three moras in a row—even if the /ɪ/ and /ʊ/ are in separate syllables. But in the genitive we violate * μμμ, though admittedly across the syllable line.

* μμμ

So /juμμμiμμ/ packs three moras into the last two syllables, which, while it is allowed, seems not to be favored. But when we move to the dative we get this.

* μμμ



Three moras. No deletion. My suggestion is that /ɪ/ and /i:/ are somehow considered to be the same. And their orthography and presentation in textbooks would suggest that. The existence of stuff like nihil/nīl, pronounced [nɪhɪl̴] and [ni:l̴], also suggests that /ɪ/ and /i:/ are related quite closely.

The constraint of *μμμ  answers some questions, but brings me back to my initial question of just what is the nature of the relationship between long and short vowels in Latin? Something is afoot.