Preaspiration in the Nordic languages : synchronic and diachronic aspects

Abstract: Preaspiration—the production of glottal friction at the juncture of a vowel and a consonant—appears to be typologically rare but is an areal linguistic feature of Northwestern Europe. This study contains a survey of the known geographical spread of preaspirated stops, their phonological distribution and phonetic expressions in some Nordic dialects. The study also suggests a reconstruction of the phonetics of the Proto-Nordic stop contrasts based on synchronic data as well as a more general framework of historical sound change.Following an introduction (Chapter 1), Chapter 2 deals with the definition and typology of preaspiration presenting a global overview of the known geographical spread of preaspiration. The apparent rarity of preaspiration is considered. Proposed, perceptually based explanations of this rarity are evaluated.Chapter 3 offers a fairly detailed account of the known areal spread of preaspiration in Europe. Stop systems of several dialects in which preaspiration occurs are analysed in terms of voicing conditions. These analyses are based mainly on descriptions provided in the dialectological literature.Chapter 4 presents data on durational variation and other phonetic patterns of stop production in Central Standard Swedish, Tórshavn Faroese, Gräsö Swedish and Western Åland Swedish. The results reveal a greater degree of phonetic variation than has been assumed to date. In particular, speakers of Central Standard Swedish are shown to use preaspiration as a regular feature in their voiceless stop production.In Chapter 5, finally, the results of the data analysis are used in an attempt to reconstruct the phonetic expression of stop contrasts in Proto-Nordic. It is argued that Proto-Nordic stop production was largely similar to the stop production of today’s Central Standard Swedish. As regards phonological structure, however, the Proto-Nordic stop contrasts appear to have been largely preserved in all dialects considered. This conclusion is found to be compatible with an expansion/contraction (E/C) model of historical sound change.