Vowels of Romanian: Historical, Phonological and Phonetic Studies
Renwick, Margaret Elspeth
This dissertation investigates the Romanian vowel system from historical, phonological and phonetic perspectives, centering on marginal contrasts, in which a sharp distinction between allophones and phonemes is insufficient to capture the relationships among sounds. Study of both morpho-phonological alternations and synchronic phonetics is necessary to understand the forces driving the phonemic system of Romanian, which is under-studied with respect to other Romance languages.The dissertation first investigates a historically-based phonological question. In the history of Romanian /ɨ/, it is shown that a combination of native phonological processes and borrowings shaped the vowel’s distribution, and although /ɨ/ is synchronically phonemic it remains restricted to a small set of phonologicallydetermined contexts. A quantitative synchronic counterpart to this study describes relative type frequency among Romanian phonemes, and argues that /ɨ/, as well as diphthongs /e̯a/ and /o̯ a/, are marginally contrastive in the language. They have very low type frequency, and their distribution can almost be predicted, although minimal pairs demonstrate their status as phonemes. While /ɨ/ lies in a pairwise relationship of marginal contrast with its former allophone /ʌ/, the diphthongs’ contrastiveness is reduced by their large role in the morphology.Turning to the acoustics of the Romanian vowel system, a phonetic study shows the positioning of monophthongs and diphthongs in the Romanian vowel space, as well as their durational characteristics. The central vowels /ɨ/ and /ʌ/ are shown to be acoustically distinct; additionally, two pilot perceptual experiments investigate the relationship between these vowels’ marginal contrastiveness and their perception. A second study, which compares coarticulation in Romanian and Italian, examines vowels’ characteristics as a function of phonetic context. Disparities in magnitudes of coarticulation across contexts and languages are argued to parallel phonological differences between the two languages. These differences additionally have implications for models of the relationship between inventory size and acoustic vowel space.The dissertation emphasizes the interrelations between phonetics and phonology, and demonstrates the influence of morphology on phonological contrasts and phonetic processes in Romanian. In conclusion, a model is proposed for comparing the relative influences of lexical contrast, relative frequency, and morphology on the members of a phonological system.
Romanian vowel; languages
Zec,Draga; Rosen,Carol Gilson; Chitoran,Ioana; Tilsen,Samuel
Ph. D., Linguistics
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis