South Slavic languages: Tonal Accent

Discussion in 'Other Slavic Languages' started by Athaulf, Dec 15, 2007.

  1. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Shouldn't the same distinction also exist for other cases and genders, except that it's determined only by accent? I don't know to what extent Serbian speakers perceive these differences nowadays (and I'm sure it varies drastically between different regions), but being from Bosnia, I can clearly hear and feel the difference between, say, dobra pronounced with a short rising accent on o and a short a (indefinite) and the same adjective pronounced with a short falling accent on o and a long a (definite). Similarly, I perceive e.g. the genitive dobrog as indefinite when it has short rising accent, and definite when it's short falling (the second o is long in both cases).

    (Ten years of living in Zagreb have numbed my feeling for accents a bit, so there might be inaccuracies in the above descriptions of stress, but still, in all these cases I clearly feel the difference in definiteness depending on the stress.)
     
  2. dudasd

    dudasd Senior Member

    Serbia
    Serbo-Croatian
    Yes, you're absolutely right. :) (I didn't want to go too wide, so I mentioned the difference in the very form only.) The length following stress in indefinite forms of feminine and neuter gender adjectives is still valid. And you are right again (this refers to your comment about Zagreb, and I will be free to "translate" it as a kind of statement, may I? :) ) - big towns are inclined to swallow some fine nuances of a language. The same sad process is on in Belgrade too. But I am so glad to hear that you feel that difference, you made my day. :) Not so many people feel it nowadays.

    For those who may be confused:

    definite form:
    (m) döbar, (f) dòbra, (n) dòbro

    indefinite form:
    (m) döbrī, (f) dòbrā, (n) dòbrō

    I apologize because of "ö", it should look a bit different, but I can't find any better substitution (and my own creation could happen not to work here).
     
  3. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    However, are you sure that the accent in dobra is short rising in both cases? The definite form is definitely with a short rising o (same as e.g. voda). However, is the o in the indefinite form really short rising? The way I'd pronounce it sounds like short falling to me, although as I've already said, my feeling might easily be wrong. :) Could you give an example of some other two-syllable word that is supposed to have the same combination (a short rising first vowel and a long second one) so I can compare?
     
  4. dudasd

    dudasd Senior Member

    Serbia
    Serbo-Croatian
    That's the accent given both in Rečnik Matice Srpske, tom I, and Rečnik SANU, tom II. I am searching for a parallel example; my first thought was "vedar, vedri", but out of some reason they didn't put any accents except in masc. indefinite. I promise I'll find more examples and post them. :)

    A note for other readers: both dictionaries I mentioned are Serbo-Croatian (not "Serbian").
     
  5. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Yes, that seems to be a good example: my feeling is that vedri (definite form of vedar) should have exactly the same accent as the definite form of dobra. I feel this accent as different from the third person present of the verb vedriti, which is also vedri (as in the phrase vedri i oblači), so if this is right, then one of these must be short rising, and the other short falling (both with a long i). But which is which?

    My problem with the formal classification of tonal accents is that I'm almost totally tone-deaf! I can clearly feel the difference between rising and falling accents, and I can easily reproduce them, but I have no intuitive feel for which ones are supposed to be called "rising" and which ones "falling". My brain somehow does classify the accents correctly, but my ears give me no feeling for whether the pitch of a tone is rising or falling, even for long syllables. (From what I've read, being tone-deaf is not an obstacle to learning even the most complex lexical tone systems such as e.g. Cantonese, but from my experience, it certainly becomes a problem when one needs to analyze them!)
     
  6. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    Whatever
    It should definitively be short falling in indefinite form, i.e:

    (m) döbrī, (f) döbrā, (n) döbrō

    Athaulf and I do have similar backgrounds (Bosnian-born), but the short rising in this context would sounds unnatural pretty much everywhere. I'm fairly certain that it's a bug typo in the Rečnik.
     
  7. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    Whatever
    I suppose the problem is in discerning short ones -- long ones are fairly obvious. If I may offer a couple of tips that work for me (which don't necessarily mean they will work for you :D ):

    1) Use the fact that rising accents can't occur in monosyllabic words: pronounce the word, but "swallow" the second and later syllables. If the remainder is pronouncable, you got a falling one. e.g:
    nizak has niz-; that niz- "rhymes" with "niz vodu", i.e. it's pronouncable as single word, i.e. it's falling.
    But e.g. visok has vis-. That one "wants" a second syllable, and doesn't "rhyme" with ris. It's rising.

    2) "Sing" the word in your mind (or aloud, but be prepared for strange looks if you get spotted ), but mutter "mhms" rather than real syllables. Pay attention to the pitch difference, and exaggerate it if necessary. If the first syllable is notably higher than the second, it's falling. If they're about the same, it's rising. Practice with nizak and visok.

    3) Remember that nizak is falling and visok rising. Compare the sound of given word with those.

    P.S. A case could be made for splitting the thread, starting from this post.
    P.P.S. Thus,
    "Taj vedri momak" can be analyzed as "taj ved [ri] momak" (rule 1) thus it's falling, i.e. vëdrī (I pronounce length here - do you?)
    "On vedri i oblači" cannot be analyzed as "on ved [ri] i oblači" (rule 1) thus it's rising, i.e. vèdrī.
     
  8. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Actually, I can easily tell apart both short and long ones. Göre and gòre sound like quite distinct words to me, even when the e stays short. :) The problem is that although I can easily register the difference, I don't actually feel the pitch going up or down; I just feel some abstract, inexplicable and unanalyzable difference. If I had been (hypothetically) taught about the classification of accents by someone who consistently used the opposite terminology (rising for falling and vice versa), I could honestly learn this material without ever noticing that there is anything wrong with it. I really feel nothing "falling" about the pitch of the first syllable even in, say, majka, even though I clearly feel it as drastically different from the one in, say, glava. (Once I actually took an online test of pitch perception, and I did very poorly.)

    Thus the problem for me is not to feel the difference, but to remember the correct name for each category! Since my ear is not telling me what should be naturally called "rising" and what "falling", I have to memorize an example from each category, and then match the word with those. And since I don't discuss these matters too often these days, I keep mixing them up... :( Still, thanks a lot for the advice below; some of it could really make things easier for me in the future. :)

    Yes, this is definitely a very good mnemonic. Although in some places in Bosnia, a single long rising "a" is used as a word (a question marker of sorts). :D

    With this part, I have no problems. As soon as I have sample words from each category, I can easily match them mentally with any others. And my tone-deafness unfortunately holds for comparisons between syllables too. :D

    Yes, it should be split; we've now drifted apart from the original topic completely. (But not aimlessly, although I'm sure that most speakers of European languages would consider the idea of conveying definiteness by tones as supremely bizarre. :D)

    Yes, I pronounce it (in fact, quite prominently).

    Also, there is another interesting thing I've noticed about my perception of accents: my brain lumps together the accent and the post-accentual length into a single piece of information! In the famous example re gòre gòrē, I clearly perceive each word as different from the other three -- but if you asked me to pair them up so that words in each pair have the same accent on o and differ only in the length of e, I'd have a hard time doing it. However, now I realize that the above method (1) can help a lot with this.
     
  9. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    Whatever
    I (sort of) understand now; I suppose that any attempt to continue explanation would have the same effect as describing the difference between green and red to a daltonist. :D Thus, you couldn't make use of the tip #2.

    A? :cool:
     
  10. dudasd

    dudasd Senior Member

    Serbia
    Serbo-Croatian
    Typo can happen in one dictionary, not in several dictionaries, and certainly not so easy in dictionaries of that rank. I agree that Rečnik Matice Srpske gives some strange accents sometimes, but SANU is very precise. I've heard both accents in Serbia, so the question is why editors accepted this and not that accent (this question is valid for some other words as well). I say "dòbrā" because I am inclined to believe linguists who make dictionaries. But my husband is from Bosnia and he pronounces it like "döbrā" like you. :)
     
  11. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    I remember reading that even among speakers of languages with the most complicated systems of tonal accents, like Vietnamese or Cantonese, being tone-deaf doesn't imply any impediment in speech and understanding. It seems like the recognition of language tones is handled by specialized circuits in the brain, independent from those that operate (or fail :)) when one tries to analyze the changes in pitch consciously. I certainly see no other explanation for the way I feel the differences between rising and falling accents -- something just tells me they are different, but I have no conscious perception of the pitch rising or falling.
     
  12. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    Whatever
    Hm. I'm trying real hard to imagine a context or a speaker where "dòbrā" (to "rhyme" with "kolač") would sound natural or even a marginally acceptable pronunciation, but I'm failing. Let's just agree that we disagree here... :)

    On a wider scale, I'm trying to find a word whose stress pattern is

    xòxō

    where x is any consonant, and o any vowel, and it doesn't end in a consonant. Of the native words, I found only kàdā, as well as French borrowings (kafe, kupe), but I can't imagine an adjective of that pattern.
     
  13. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    How about tuđi/tuđa or niski/niska? My feeling tells me that those have an accent pattern different from dobri/dobra, and identical to kada, kolač, or sada. (I'm referring to the definite nominative singular for all these adjectives.)
     
  14. dudasd

    dudasd Senior Member

    Serbia
    Serbo-Croatian
    No, no, I don't say you're not right, my question was just why our linguists decided to take that accent instead of the (obviously) more wide-spreaded one, or to consider a doubletic form. But that pattern is really very present in kanovački govor, where lengths after rising accents are so strongly pronounced that some words almost feel like having two stressed syllables (in those cases when the main accent in on the correct syllable, that is), so one can easily distinct both the kind of accent and the presence of length. (Like in mòdrā. Though mòdrā and mödra are doubletic, in this part of the country you will likely hear "mòdrā", especially in some villages where some of the original accents are still in use.)
     
  15. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    Whatever
    For me, tuđa has the same accent pattern as dobra, but I do admit that "your way" sounds acceptable too (for me). You nailed it with niska though, it is short rising.

    .

    Um, "kanovački"? I've just Googled a bit and I found that it refers to "[SIZE=-1]...znatan broj govora obilježava duljenje pri pomicanju kratkoga naglaska na prednaglasnu kračinu (tzv. kanovački naglasak)[/SIZE]", but could you elaborate? Which dialects fit that description?
     
  16. dudasd

    dudasd Senior Member

    Serbia
    Serbo-Croatian
    Kanovački govor is so wide-spreaded that the nearest classification could be "a subdialekt of Shtokavian". In Serbia, it's mostly present in kosovsko-resavski (but sporradically). I suppose you know that a significant number of words had the position of their accent changed, and that by that process we got short-rising accent. Kosovsko-resavski is characterized by preserving the older accentuation (devOjka - where "O" is similar to long-falling, but not identical, more like in Russian or Italian). But in those words where the accent changed its place and shifted to the previous syllable, becoming short, kanovački kept more intensity both concerning the stressed syllable and the following syllable with/without the length. For example:

    Old accent: ženA
    Kanovački (Donja Jasenica): žEnĀ (the accent is somewhere between short-rising and long-rising, and the length is almost like another accent)
    Modern accent: žèna

    So, for an unexperienced listener, kanovački "žEnĀ" can sound like "žénâ" (often abused in caricatured imitations), but if you "translate" it to modern accentuation, it clearly leads to "žèna" (the second strong and lengthened syllable shows that it's short-rising at the main syllable, you can't fail).


    Maybe an interesting detail: though kosovsko-resavski prevails in the area I live at, only a couple of surrounding villages speak kanovački. I can only guess that it's a consequence of migrations (especially in 18th century here). But it was very helpful when I was learning for my Medieval Slavonic exam, I didn't have to think much about the position of accents.


    Hope I haven't bored with this. :)
     
  17. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Interestingly, to me only "my way" of stressing tuđa sounds right. But even in Bosnia, a few dozen (or even fewer) kilometers can make a drastic difference in these matters. :D

    However, on further reflection, it seems to me that this accent pattern (two syllables: short rising + long) isn't that rare for adjectives. Here are some further examples of adjectives that I stress the same way (all in nominative singular feminine definite form):

    turska
    glavna
    mjesna
    gradska
    ključna
    bratska
    ženska
    sudska
    ljudska

    It took me about 2-3 minutes of thinking to assemble this list; I'm sure I could find many more examples given more time. From the above examples, it seems to me that adjectives derived from nouns ending in -ski often have this stress pattern (but certainly not always, e.g. ruska, konjska, švedska...).
     
  18. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    Whatever
    Well said; that's indeed the case in the area I come from (central Posavina).
    <embarrassed> :eek:
    I agree on all the examples above except, um, švedska? It rhymes with turska for me, and decidedly not with ruska. I've heard švêdskā (like snježna -- but that also sounds wrong to me), but not švëdskā.
     
  19. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Yes, švedska decidedly "rhymes" with ruska for me. :)
     

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