Abstract
During a brief encounter with a Livonian sailor on the Copehagen waterfront, Vilhelm Thomsen noticed in his speech a prosodic feature, found in no other Balto-Finnic language, which he instantly identified with the stød of his own native Danish.1 In the few hours that he was able to spend with the seaman, Thomsen accurately identified the essentials of the Livonian stød’s distribution, noting that it occurs in heavy syllables that end in what he called a “sonant coefficient” and that it interacts with quantitative gradation in morphological paradigms. His observations, which appeared as a last-minute addendum to his famous Ber¨oringer (Thomsen 1890:58-63), were con- firmed and extended through extensive work on Livonian by Finnish linguists in the interwar decades. They produced a magnificent Livonian dictionary, from which most of the data in my paper is drawn (Kettunen 1938), a series of instrumental phonetic studies (Kettunen 1925, Posti 1936, Posti 1937, Penttil¨a & Posti 1941), and two historical grammars (Posti 1942, Kettunen 1947). Vihman (1971) and Suhonen (1982) contributed additional observations on the phonetics of stød. Wiik (1989) summarizes all this previous research, and discusses the stød’s phonological interpretation and origin. Unfortunately all further inquiry into Livonian prosody will have to make do with the existing data because the language is now on the brink of extinction.
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