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The phonology of rhythm from Classical to Modern Portuguese

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The prosodic change that has been reported to have occurred from Classical to Modern Portuguese is investigated by means of a new approach to the study of rhythm in language change. Assuming that rhythm is a by-product of the presence/absence of a set of properties in a given linguistic system, we computed frequency information on rhythm-related properties from written texts of the 16th to the 19th centuries, by means of the electronic tool FreP. Results show a change in the distributions of properties related to word stress and prosodic word shape after the 16th century, indicating that the prosodic change occurred between the 16th and 17th centuries. A predictive analysis based on Bayesian statistics provided strong support for the timing of the change, and successfully modelled our data showing a timeline consistent with the direction of the prosodic shift towards the integration of stress-timing properties into Romance syllable-timed rhythm.
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Keywords: Classical Portugese; European Portugese; frequency; prosodic change; rhythm

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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