Paul Boersma’s writings on Limburgian

Several Franconian dialects, such as Limburgian (Netherlands, Belgium, Germany), Ripuaric (Germany, Belgium, Netherlands) and Central Franconian (Germany, Luxemburg, Belgium) have a lexical contrast between an acute accent (Stoßton, stoottoon, accent 1) and a circumflex accent (Schleifton, sleeptoon, accent 2). This has been known since the latter half of the 19th century.


1. The origin of the Franconian tone contrast

In my view, the contrast originated around the 13th century during the process of Open Syllable Lengthening. As a (slightly simplified) example, the 12th-century words zøøkən ‘seek’ and køkən ‘kitchen’ had a long and a short vowel, respectively, and were probably pronounced (at least with declarative intonation) with a high pitch on the first mora and a low pitch on the subsequent moras, i.e. as [zǿø̀kə̀n] and [kǿkə̀n], respectively. When the ø of køkən then lengthened in the 13th century, its high pitch lengthened as well, leading to the pronunciation [kǿǿkə̀n]. As a result, the rhymes of [zǿø̀kə̀n] and [kǿǿkə̀n] became minimal pitch pairs; these pronunciations are still valid in present-day Limburgian. The contrast has to be presented in the lexicon, either as a tonal contrast or as an alignment contrast. For 14th-century Limburgian I argue for an alignment contrast, whereas the present-day contrast may be either tonal (Schmidt, Gussenhoven) or alignment-based (Kehrein, Köhnlein); my agnostic notation is zǿøkən versus køø̄kən.

In a talk in Antwerp in 2002, I defended the above view on Franconian tonogenesis against a couple of other views, most notably Carlos Gussenhoven’s, which cannot account for most of the Limburgian data. The talk discusses much more data than zǿøkən ~ køø̄kən, and compares the reconstructed Limburgian events to the events in Lithuanian reconstructed in the earlier literature:

2002/05/24 De volgorde van de gebeurtenissen in de geschiedenis van het Limburgse tooncontrast.
Presentation at the meeting of the Nederlandse Vereniging voor Fonetische Wetenschappen on “segmentele toonverschijnselen, vooral in Limburg”, Antwerpen.

Several written versions of the idea have circulated in draft format in the years between 2002 and 2013. In 2013 I finally submitted a 57-page written version for a book, which covers many details:

2013/03/27 The history of the Franconian tone contrast.
To appear in a book edited by Wolfgang Kehrein and Björn Köhnlein.

2. A tonal analysis of Roermond Limburgian

Carlos Gussenhoven (2001) gave an analysis of the interaction between tone and intonation in Roermond Limburgian. This was the first synchronic analysis of Franconian tone placed in the rest of the phonology, and is was smart. The thing that did not satisfy me about it, was that Gussenhoven had to represent the rising pitch on some syllables (namely, focused non-final syllables in interrogative intonation) without any H tone on them; in fact, Gussenhoven claims that these syllables honour a *RISE constraint! I therefore devised a simpler analysis, with a tone T whose value (H or L) depends on what would produce a contrast at all:

2011/11/04 Het ontstaan van het Frankische tooncontrast uit focusintonatie.
Presentation at the fairwell meeting for Anette Ölander, Amsterdam.

3. The difference between pitch-accent languages and tone languages

Whereas the above analysis of Roermond tilts toward being tone-based, the following typological considerations tilt toward an alignment-based analysis:

2008/01/25 Björn Köhnlein & Paul Boersma:
Westerwald Franconian: a different ternary scale for tone spreading.
Poster OCP 5, Toulouse.

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