BCS: Noun declension and prosody


Are there any rules governing the quantitative and qualitative changes in stress in different noun cases in BCS? Or are they chaotic?

I think I’ve spotted a few patterns — can someone please confirm and/or expand on this, if possible?

For example, in male nouns that have more than one syllable, the accent changes from short falling to long rising, shifting one syllable forward and replacing the long unaccented vowel:

käfīć (sg, n) - kafíća (sg, g)
restörān (sg, n) - restoránu (sg, loc)

In male nouns that have one syllable, the accent changes from long falling to long rising:

grâd (sg, n) - grádu (sg, loc)
vêk (sg, n) - vékōva (pl, gen)

In neuter nouns, the accent changes from long rising to short falling and a long unstressed vowel is added:

déte (sg, n) - dëtēta (sg, gen)
vréme (sg, n) - vrëmēna (sg, gen)

In feminine nouns that end in -a(consonant)a, the accent changes from long rising to long falling:

pláža (sg, n) - plâži (sg, dat/loc)
bášta (sg, n) - bâšti (sg, dat/loc)

Is this systematized anywhere in grammar books?
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  • Zec

    Senior Member

    This is very similar to Russian, but with length and tone present which are absent from Russian. That is, there are patterns you can learn but ultimately you have to remember which word follows each pattern. Sadly, absolutely no learner-oriented grammars say anything about accent - they obviously expect you to pick it up by listening to native speakers. Usually only scientific papers and academic grammars have the information you're looking for. I don't know if there's a more accessible source, but one of the appendixes to this book contains examples of every accent pattern, fully declined and conjugated. Should be useful even if the explanation is in Croatian (which may be partially understandable to a Russian speaker). Bear in mind that the accent patterns there are considered archaic or regional today, the book is concerned with the history of Croatian (really Western South Slavic due to extensive reference to other languages, including Slovene) accentuation and the author wanted the oldest attested accent patterns. Changes they have undergonerȗku are always mentioned in the footnotes.

    There is a rule that should be very useful to you as a Russian speaker, called neo-štokavian accent retraction. I'm afraid I won't be able to explain it well, but I'll try anyway. At one point in history of BCMS every accent moved one syllable to the left. This movement of accent created the distinction between rising and falling accents: the accent which moved (those which were not at the beginning of the word) became rising, those which didn't move (those which were at the beginning of the word, they obviously couldn't move to the left) remained falling. The old place of accent was very similar to Russian, the new place of accent is that of modern BCMS. For example compare BCMS N rúka and A rȗku to Russian N рука́ and A ру́ку. We see that compared to russian the accent has moved in рука́ - rúka and became rising, while it didn't move in ру́ку - rȗku and remained falling according to the rules I described. When you take this into account the patterns of BCMS turn out to be very, very similar to that of Russian although not completely identical.


    Hvala puno na objašnenju! I will read up on the Neo-Štokavian accent shift. Prosody is an extra layer of information that I have to keep in mind when learning the BCMS vocabulary, so any clues would be valuable to me. Not a lot of dictionaries show accentuation, so I usually have to make my own determination by listening to sample texts online.

    Just as an example, the word “kosa/коса”, depending on the quality of the accent and the presence of long vowels, can mean (1) an agricultural tool, (2) hair, or (3) slanted.
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