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Tracing syllable structure through time: Durational reflexes of complementary quantity in Shetland Scots
Stockholm University.
Dalarna University, School of Humanities and Media Studies, Chinese.
2013 (English)Conference paper, Presentation (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The Shetland Isles, the northernmost part of the British Isles, were colonized by Vikings from about 800 AD, and belonged to Norway and later Denmark until 1469, when they were ceded to Scotland. A Nordic language, first Old Norse and later Norn, constituted the dominant language for nearly 800 years, and native speakers of Norn could be found as late as the 18th or even early 19th century. While the modern Shetland dialect constitutes a form of Lowland Scots, the exact 78nature and extent of its Scandinavian trace features remain a topic of continuing inquiry. One of the most significant claims concerns its syllable structure. Catford (1957) suggested that stressed monosyllabic words contained either a long vowel followed by a short consonant, or a short vowel followed by a long consonant. This, in his view, constituted a trace of the complementary quantity that probably existed in Norn, and which is still found in Swedish and Norwegian: Sw. hat ‗hate‘ V:C vs. hatt ‗hat‘ VC:.This suggestion was previously examined on the basis of acoustic measurements (van Leyden 2002). The results indicated that the inverse correlation between vowel and consonant duration in Shetland Scots was weaker than in Norwegian but stronger than in mainland Scotland or the Orkney Isles, which are situated considerably closer to the Scottish mainland. A stronger correlation in Shetland than in Orkney is consistent with the timing of Norn‘s demise; it survived longer in Shetland.There is significant linguistic variation within the Shetland Isles (Mather & Speitel, 1986). This is partly attributable to the fact that they constitute an archipelago of over 100 islands, where interisland travel was at times limited. A recent regional survey of Shetland Scots therefore included an investigation of the relationship between vowel and consonant duration. 10 localities from the entire archipelago were included. In each locality 2 men and 2 women between the ages 55-75 were recorded, all of whom were born and had lived most of their lives in the locality in question. The present study focuses on the vowel system before /t/, as this context facilitates a comparison across regions, has revealed geographic variation previously (van Leyden 2002), and constitutes the primary context of Catford‘s original claim. Monosyllabic target words (feet, beat, bit, etc.) were produced (2 repetitions) by the informants in a carrier sentence. Vowel and consonant duration was measured, and the relation between the two was assessed on the basis of correlation measures.The results reveal a clear north-to-south cline in the strength of correlation within the Shetland archipelago: the pattern is strongest in the northern isles, decreases through the Shetland mainland, and becomes weakest in the southern part of the mainland and Fair Isle. This pattern is generally consistent with the timing of Norn‘s death; Norn is reported to have survived the longest in the northern parts. However alternative interpretations, involving more recent dialect leveling, are also discussed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013.
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Research subject
Kultur, identitet och gestaltning
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:du-13154OAI: oai:DiVA.org:du-13154DiVA: diva2:655759
Conference
The 42nd Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Association of the Southwest, New Brunswick, NJ, USA, 26-28 Sep 2013
Available from: 2013-10-13 Created: 2013-10-13 Last updated: 2015-05-21Bibliographically approved

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