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Tone and stress in Basque: a preliminary study

Anuario del Seminario de Filología Vasca "Julio de Urquijo"
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867 Tone and Stress in Basque: a Preliminary study Jose Ignacio HUALDE University of Southern California 1. Introduction. The Basque speaking domain encompasses a surprising variety of accen- tual systems for such a ,small area. These systems range from some that are quite similar to the ones found in the neighboring Romance languages to others that are very different in their nature from anything found in Romance. This situation of wide diversity gave rise to conflicting and even contradic- tory statements among early researchers, depending on the dialect that they were taking as a basis for their description of the Basque accentual system and depending of the definition of "accent" that was adopted1• Among Basque scholars, it is generally recognized that the work of Miche- lena cop.tributed inla very important manner to our current understanding of the Basque accentual situation. Michelena (1972, 1977) distinguishes four 'ac- centual types in Basque, admitting a certain ammount of variation within each of the four major types.. His _classification is the following: Type I. In this accentual system2, words may have one of two suprasegmen- tal patterns: either a sustained accent (in Michelena's and Jacobsen's (1972) terms), which is considered the unmarked pattern, or a falling contour, which is charac- teristic of plural nouns and a small number of singular and indefinite nouns. This type is found in the Western-Central area, comprising most dialects spoken in the provinces of Biscay and Guipuzcoa and some bordering dialects of Navarre. Type 11. This is the Souletin-Roncalese system, of the Easternmost Basque speaking area. Michelena establishes a comparison, between this accentual type and that of Gascon. In tnese varieties, stress, which is phonemic (Le. may carry grammatical information), is generally assigned on the penultimate syllable. As we will see later, and Michelena notices, there are two clear subtypes within this type, the Souletin and the Roncalese. Type Ill.

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