Slovenian: Centralization of original short vowels

2wrbk

Member
Polski
Hello. Is centralization of original short vowels /i u ɛ ɔ/ to /ə/ becoming standard in Slovenia, or is it still perceived as regional? I'm asking because dictionaries keep transcribing Standard Slovenian as if it featured phonemic vowel length, and this may be one of the reasons. If this is the case, then I think that the original long-short opposition has been turned into a tense-lax one. It's certainly the case with the former long-short pair /aː–a/ which has largely turned into a tense-lax opposition /a–ʌ/ in contemporary Standard Slovenian (few instances of the former short /a/ have turned into the tense /a/ when the syllable in which it appeared wasn't closed and word-final).

Also, how often do speakers maintain the contrast between the original long /uː/ and the original short /u/ as a tense-lax one (/u–ʊ/, much as in Northern Standard German)? I've seen this phenomenon briefly mentioned in two papers, though they don't seem to go into any detail.
 
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  • Panceltic

    Senior Member
    Slovenščina
    Hello, I hope you don't mind me replying to every thread of yours! :D

    This is purely dialectal/regional feature and is not part of the standard. It is mostly a feature of Gorenjska dialects (I believe it is the strongest there), also the "old" Ljubljana speech (not the modern, "melting-pot" kind of mix of everything), and Dolenjska to some extent. All these dialects also exhibit pitch accent, and this centralization is only happening to short-falling vowels. Long-falling and long-rising vowels are never centralized. (What happens to them is usually diphthongization.)

    I know a person with the /u–ʊ/ distinction (from Gorenjska), but this is a feature of that specific dialect, I believe. They also have /i-ɪ/.

    The tense-lax opposition you propose has only really happened to /a/. For example, in my dialect I say /brət, brata/ and in careful speech /brʌt, brata/; whereas in my dialect I say /məʃ, miʃ/ (with total elision of -i in the genetive) and in careful speech /miʃ, miʃi/
     

    2wrbk

    Member
    Polski
    I don't mind that at all. Your answers are very informative.

    It's interesting that there's a connection between the centralization of original short vowels and dialects that exhibit it having phonemic pitch accent. I wasn't aware of it. So maybe there's method in the madness of dictionaries which still distinguish short and long vowels - they tell the learner which vowels are centralized in dialects with phonemic pitch accent (though that itself is variable and doesn't always [or maybe even more often than that] agree with Standard Slovenian, so... :p)

    I see. I suspected that that distinction wasn't as common (although [ʊ] is as close to both u and [o] as [ʌ] is to both [a] and [ə], so the phonetic distance between vowels doesn't seem to be the deciding factor here).

    That makes sense. Thanks again.
     
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    Panceltic

    Senior Member
    Slovenščina
    Yeah, that's exactly it haha! Every word in the dictionary is an abstract entity which must then be adapted to a dialect of your liking :)

    My native dialect has phonemic pitch accent so I have no problem with making an order out of this mess, but I can totally see how it is a mess for an independent outside observer.
     

    eeladvised

    Member
    Slovene - Slovenia
    I'm not an expert in these things, but there's something that bothers me about all this talk that the (supposedly lost) distinction between long and short vowels has now transformed into a distinction of quality, with formerly short vowels now being a bit more centralized than the formerly long ones. The thing that bothers me is that Breznik's books about Slovene grammar, written around a hundred years ago (1916 and 1934), talk at considerable length about the different vowels and frequently describe the difference between long and short ones as being not only a difference in length but also in quality, with the shorter ones being more centralized.

    For example: "Dolgopoudarjeni i ima čist, poln glas (= ozki i). Kratkopoudarjeni ali nepoudarjeni i se ne izreka s polnim glasom, temveč malce zamolklo (= široki i). Jezik se ne dvigne tako visoko proti trdemu nebu, kakor pri dolgopoudarjenem i." [The long stressed i has a pure, full sound (= close i). The short stressed or unstressed i is not pronounced with a full sound, but somewhat muffled (= open i). The tongue does not rise as high towards the hard palate as with the long stressed i.] (Breznik 1916, page 7.) Does this not sound a lot like a description of the difference between /i/ and /ɪ/? On page 17 he has a similar description of the difference between the long and short u. But interestingly, when it comes to a, he does not make any such distinction in quality between the long and short a (page 14).

    So I don't think that the sort of centralization that you two are talking about is such a recent development, except perhaps in the case of a.
     

    2wrbk

    Member
    Polski
    By centralization I meant both a complete replacement with the schwa and a slight phonetic centralization. The latter is something I'm aware of (and I'm also aware that it's not recent, my Slovenian course from 1980 called Slovenščina za Poljake mentions [ɪ ʊ ʌ] as possible realizations of the original /i u a/). So even [ʌ] isn't a recent development, it's been around for decades.

    Thanks for the quote though.
     
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