So, my posts have been distinctly sparse as of late. There are two reasons for this; the primary one is the arrival of my boyfriend in Cambridge, but running a very close second is my thesis.
As is the way with theses, they do tend to take up a lot of one’s time, especially when left to the last minute *coughmighthavedonethatcough*. What I found particularly challenging about my topic though was the odd lack of literature. What I’m researching is hiatus resolution. Classicists may have encountered this term when dealing with Homer and epic correption, ‘vocalis ante vocalem corripitur‘ (a vowel is shortened before [another] vowel). This Latin phrase refers to the tendency in epic poetry for a word final long vowel or diphthong to shorten before a word initial vowel:
τὴν δ’ ἐγὼ οὐ λύσω: πρίν μιν καὶ γῆρας ἔπεισιν
(the final omega in ἐγὼ scans short, even though omega typically scans long, because it is followed by a vowel – in this case omicron)
This is one method Greek (and in a sense Latin – more later) employs to deal with hiatus. Hiatus can be defined as the heterosyllabic adjacency of two syllable nuclei. In non-technical language, that means ‘two vowels or vowel-like segments occurring next to eachother, but in different syllables’. For example, the word hiatus contains an example of hiatus; it is syllabified hi-a-tus. The i and the a are next to each other, but occur in different syllables. Often, languages try to avoid this, presumably because it can be a bit awkward to pronounce. Since hiatus consists of two aspects, heterosyllabicity and vowel adjacency, a hiatus resolution method will try to eliminate one of these aspects so there is no longer a hiatus:
There are quite a lot of interesting things that can happen here, but I’ll discuss that in a later post once I’ve finished my thesis.
You’ll note that I said, ‘there are quite a lot of interesting things that can happen here’. Despite this, there doesn’t seem to be much literature on the topic at all. As far as I’m aware, only Roderic Casali has published anything explicitly to do with the topic. The rest is hidden in grammars and theoretical texts on syllabification (but not really). Sidney Allen and Michel Lejeune both include sections on ‘vowel-junction’ in their grammars, and this sort of thing is, I believe, what is typical of discussions of hiatus resolution
One might imagine that books that discuss syllabification would be keen to talk about hiatus, but I have found no recent literature that even touches on the matter (as discovered by the very scientific method of looking through the indices of every book on syllabification, syllable weight, phonology, and phonetics found in the linguistics section of the Modern and Medieval Languages Library at Cambridge).
I would like to say that this post has more of a point, but mostly I just wanted to share this oddity and see what people thought about it. Why on earth is hiatus so rarely mentioned in theoretical texts? Am I looking in the wrong places? Or is it, perhaps, that it isn’t really that interesting after all?
1.Casali, R. F. (1998). Resolving hiatus. New York ; London, Garland.; Casali, R. F. (2011). ‘Hiatus resolution’. The Blackwell companion to phonology. D. W. Oostendorp. Malden, Mass., Wiley-Blackwell. 3: 1434-1460.
2.Allen, W. S. (1987). Vox Graeca : a guide to the pronunciation of classical Greek. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.; Allen, W. S. (1978). Vox Latina : a guide to the pronunciation of classical Latin. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
3.Lejeune, M. (1972). Phonétique historique du mycénien et du grec ancien. Paris,, Klincksieck.
4.Aguilar, L. (1999). “Hiatus and dipthong: acoustic cues and speech situation differences.” Speech Communication 28: 57-74.
5. Though Lourdes Aguilar has provided what is, to my knowledge, the only phonetic analysis of hiatus. This is useful, because it confirms that real hiatus (i.e. hiatus that isn’t interrupted by a glottal stop or other ‘silent’ consonantal element – like what you would get if you pronounced ‘a apple’) can be pronounced. Perhaps this wasn’t up for debate, but it certainly was never particularly clear. In this study, Aguilar shows that hiatus is essentially a ‘diphthong’ that is super long – long enough to be perceived as to separate syllables.