Two Basque accentual systems and word-prosodic typology

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The term 'pitch-accent language' is used in reference to languages like Swedish, where words contrast in the melody associated with the stressed syllable, and it is also applied to languages like Tokyo Japanese, where words have at most one syllable specified as bearing a tonal contour (accent), including an unaccented class. Both types of 'pitch-accent language' are found in different Basque dialects: Coastal Bizkaian Basque varieties have a prosodic system that resembles that of Tokyo Japanese and some local dialects of western Navarre, such as Goizueta, have a system of the Swedish type. Here I explore the lexical distribution of prosodic classes in Goizueta Basque and sketch a possible diachronic scenario to account for lexical correspondences between Goizueta and Coastal Bizkaian. I suggest, as a hypothesis, that, at the most recent common stage, the language had a prosodic system with three classes of words, two classes lexically specified for one of two types of tonal contour plus an unaccented class. The typological interest of this investigation is that it leads us to reconsider whether there is in fact some deep commonality underlying these seemingly so different types of pitch-accent system by establishing a possible diachronic link.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1335-1351
Number of pages17
Issue number13
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • Accent
  • Accentogenesis
  • Basque
  • Pitch-accent
  • Prosodic typology
  • Stress
  • Tonogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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