Tempo and Mora in Phonological Change
Words of more than two syllables tend toward moraic balance, while even those are subject to the acceleration processes that yield triplet formation. Triplets tend to shorten to disyllables, which in Ancient Greek, where all disyllables are stable, acquire duple timing when not inhibited by semantic or morphological considerations. This mora‐preference hierarchy is applied to the solution of problems in sound change, particularly in Latin, Greek, and Germanic. Stressed open syllable lengthening can be ranked higher than disyllabism. Different rankings follow from the instability engendered by competing processes. This unified account sheds light on problems as diverse as word localization in poetry, syncope, iambic shortening, monosyllabic lengthening, trisyllabic contraction, and even some consonantal changes, such as assibilation in Ancient Greek, Hittite, and Finnish. Finally, implications are adduced for optimality of the trochaic foot.
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