attah/att variations, II, nature of pausal phonology

Vincent DeCaen decaen at
Thu Aug 12 11:24:06 EDT 1999

interesting reactions. checked with richard goerwitz as henry
suggested: he said he might expect a mismatch between accents and
pause: and he's right....

here's the view, essentially laid out by revell in a series of papers
in the 1980s. pause is a projection of specific syntactic edges,
primarily be not exclusively sentence-final boundaries: it is indeed
exciting to look at the behaviour, how predictable it is, and how
typical in light of crosslinguistic data---like a real language. ;-)
pause can be also be suppressed due to prosodic demands, but that's
also fascinatingly systematic.

moving stress to the end is characteristic of contextual reductions.
so with the three variants:
the first two are pausal and the last is contextual due to shifting to
final vowel (cf. 1s )FNIY vs. ):ANIY ).

the first variant we will call major pause. it systematically appears
on the trailing edges of the units at the first division of a verse.
typically, that would make major pause exclusively on athah and
silluq. but it turns out that verses without athnah have major pause
on the first split anyway; similarly in the book of psalms, and the
systematic variation with athnah in that other system of accents.
(btw, the study of 2fs )^FT.: vs )^AT.: also patterns the same.)

so richard and the others are right: there is a mismatch between pause
and the accents. the interesting question is, what could be the
phonological reality behind major pause, independent of the accents?

it also means that pause will occur in principle on all accent types,
including at the weirdest, conjunctives. the distribution of pause by
accent grade (0-3) will be a function of the average number of
sentences per verse. this could be tested by statistical cuts through
random parts of the biblical text, and compared against my statistics:
should come out like henry's numbers. in other words, the mismatch
here is systematic and in principle predictable.

btw, our work here has shown that pausal forms must be taken as basic,
and contextual forms derived by rule from them. not only is it more
elegant, but it's demanded by linguistic logic and phonemic analysis.

i'm off for the weekend. for my sins, i'll be cooped up in a shack
with a restless child and my parents on a rainy weekend. ;-)
Dr Vincent DeCaen     <decaen at>
c/o Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, 4 Bancroft Ave., 2d floor
University of Toronto, Toronto ON, CANADA, M5S 1A1

Hebrew Syntax Encoding Initiative,

The mind takes to a new idea the way the body takes to microbe:
It rejects it.  --P.D. Medawar

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