Abstracts of issue 22 (2015)

Athanasios Soultatis

Elements of musicality in phonology

The present study focuses on those elements of language phonology which are shared with music and poetry. Such elements can be divided into sub- and supra-segmental. The former are features of the individual sounds (“segments”), while the latter are features of larger structures; syllables, words, and phrases.

Musical elements found within segments are stress and stop consonants’ release burst. Vowel tone – albeit ex nihilo – is influenced by the voicing of its environment. Vocalic and consonantal tonal features and their interaction will be exhibited through the study and presentation of phonological processes such as tonogenesis, the emergence of tonal languages, as well as through psycholinguistic evidence such as the naming of solfege systems. The topic under examination is the impressionistic psycholinguistic properties of segments, i.e. the cognitive images generated subconsciously on hearing those segments (phonaesthesia).

The supra-segmental features presented here are rhythm, whose existence in language is debated, stress, and intonation. One more feature of the supra-segmental phonology of several languages, which has often been exploited in poetry, is syllable weight.

The above features will be listed and analysed in brief, while their existence and impact on language will be demonstrated through the presentation of historic or synchronic phonological processes that exhibit them. The aim of this presentation is to provide a listing of the musical elements of language phonology. Further analysis of these elements through a phonetic, phonological, or psycholinguistic prism falls beyond the scope of this study.

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