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Luc Baronian, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi
On Armenian Schwa and its Epenthesis
In this talk, I will do two things. First, I will summarize novel evidence for the synchronic reality of Armenian schwa epenthesis coming from the meter/textsetting of a Western Armenian folk song. The song was recorded by the Gomidas Band out of Philadelphia in 1963 on Roulette Records. The singer, Roger Mgrdichian, was born in 1930, the son of Ottoman Armenian immigrants. The rhythm used in the song, called djurdjuna, is generally analyzed as a 10/16. The singer inserts schwas to syllabify consonantal morae in order to occupy strong metrical positions.
Second, I will review the evidence covered by Vaux (1998), who offers what is no doubt the most exhaustive treatment of Armenian schwa epenthesis. We shall see that while Vaux’s analysis of schwa epenthesis intertwined with Armenian morphology, especially in the case of the possessive, is still essentially correct, it does not require a cyclic treatment. I will also argue that lexical schwas exist in Armenian and that some former cases of schwa epenthesis have now been integrated into the allomorphy of the language. I will hence conclude that Armenian schwa is similar in this respect to the classic English s/z alternation in the plural suffix. Just like the fact that English devoicing applies in “cats” does not imply that all surface [s] are derived from a /z/, there is no need to derive every surface Armenian schwa through epenthesis.