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1 Length and weight in Romance

Pavel Iosad and W. Leo Wetzels


In this chapter we consider the phonological status and patterning of vowel and consonant length and syllabic quantity across Romance varieties. The chapter is divided into two parts. In the first section, we provide an overview of the status of vowel and consonant length in the modern Romance varieties and describe the diachronic context. Synchronically, the presence of a phonemic contrast between short and long vowels is characteristic particularly of Gallo-Romance (including the varieties of northern Italy and Alpine Romance); some kind of distinction between short and long vowels and/or consonants (not necessarily one with phonemic significance) is found in a broader range of varieties, primarily in Italy. Diachronic traces of length, however, are found across most Romance languages. The second section takes up the question of phonological weight and shows that weight-sensitive patterns, primarily relating to the placement of stress, minimality requirements, and prosodic morphology, are pervasive throughout the family, even in languages without phonological length distinctions.

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