Schwa on the border between Dutch and French. Two refutations of supposed effects of language contact, grounded in language typological history

Abstract : In the prosodic phonology of Southern (Belgian) Dutch there are certain resemblances with French. The
phenomena in question concern resyllabification across word boundaries and vowel deletion in order to
optimize syllable structure. In earlier articles (Noske 2005, 2007), it was claimed that these resemblances
are a direct result of the language contact with French. However, closer inspection of historical data
reveals that the phenomena in question are part of the prosodic typology of early West-Germanic in
general. Hence it is Northern Dutch, together with many other West-Germanic dialects, that has
undergone an a prosodic-typological innovation, whereas Southern Dutch has not changed. The change
was one from the syllable counting language type to the stress counting type. It was undergone by many
centrally located West-Germanic dialects, among which Northern Dutch and High German.
This has important bearings on our understanding of the history of French: it has been claimed by
several scholars that vowel reduction in the early history of French was the result of a heavy expiratory
(intensity) stress in the Franconian superstrate. I will argue that Franconian was mostly of the syllable
counting type and hence cannot have had a strong intensity accent. This means that French schwa cannot
have Germanic as its direct source. This point of view will be strengthened by an investigation of the
relative chronology of schwa deletion in French and Germanic as well as by a comparison of the parallel
Romance and Germanic texts of the Strasbourg Oath
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Roland Noske. Schwa on the border between Dutch and French. Two refutations of supposed effects of language contact, grounded in language typological history. 5th Nantes Linguistic Meeting, Jun 2007, Nantes, France. pp. 61-68. ⟨halshs-00271437⟩

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