Exon's Law and the Latin syncopes

Ranjan Sen

in Laws and Rules in Indo‐European

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199609925
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741579 | DOI:
Exon's Law and the Latin syncopes

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  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology


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Exon’s Law of Latin syncope (1906: 128) states that ‘In all words or word-groups of four or more syllables bearing the chief accent on a long syllable, a short unaccented medial vowel was necessarily syncopated, but might be restored by analogy’. Exon’s insights that any light internal syllable could be a target, and the weight of the stressed syllable was relevant, combined with a careful re-examination of the evidence according to phonetics, metrics and chronology, helps find some order amid the chaos. Syncope was not a monolithic archaic Latin phenomenon, but continued to occur with different metrical, phonotactic and morphological constraints in different time-periods and registers. Six syncopes up to classical Latin can be identified with their own synchronic motivations, and with different phonetic environments: (1) archaic Stress-to-Weight Principle (SWP) syncope, (2) alignment syncope, (3) archaic parsing syncope, (4) *(LLL) syncope, (5) early SWP syncope, and (6) early/classical parsing syncope.

Keywords: Latin; syncope; phonology; Optimality Theory; feet; alignment

Chapter.  8033 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Historical and Diachronic Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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