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I recently came across a paper, "The Quantitative Trochee in Latin" (by R. Armin Mester, 1994) that seems to argue that feet in Latin were "strictly" bimoraic.

The arguments that Mester gives for parsing HLL words as (H)LL rather than as (HL)L seem relatively convincing to me (although it seems that Lahiri, Riad and Jacobs (1999) argue that Mester's analysis is incorrect).

But if trimoraic feet are completely unallowed in Latin, as Mester seems to say, then how can we account for the existence of LH words? The paper has a long discussion of "Brevis Brevians", which operated to replace LH with LL, but Mester acknowledges that it "was always an optional rule" (p. 12) and "was lost as a productive process in the later classical language" (pp. 12-13).

I'm confused about how Mester (or someone else who views Latin feet as maximally bimoraic) would account for the existence of LH words. Mester describes (LH) feet as "a gross violation of the quantity-prominence relations that are characterized in universal foot theory" (p. 14); but are they nevertheless supposed to have been tolerated in this particular context? If so, why exactly?

Section 4.1., on enclitics, proposes that stress may have been assigned to unfooted syllables in Latin in certain special contexts (words with enclitics), but that seems like a pretty "last resort" kind of analysis to me, and even Mester seems to treat it as somewhat dubious, saying that the "Mūsáque"-type stress pattern in Latin, even if it really existed, may have been artificially induced by contact with Greek (p. 54).

  • I am pretty sure this slipped through the cracks in that paper. Mora-extrametricality is a possible escape hatch. – user6726 Dec 20 '18 at 17:13
  • @user6726: so something like "morā" having a structure like (mŏ ră)a? If there's the option of splitting the last mora of a syllable off from the first part when forming feet, why don't we see this in other contexts? – ewawe Dec 20 '18 at 17:58
  • The standard answer would be that it is about constraint ranking. The only real problem is optionality of iambic shortening. LH words cause a crisis, which requires either shortening, or an otherwise exceptional non-parsing of the last mora (compelled by undominatedness of the strict bimoraicity requirement). You could email Armin to see what he thought at the time and what he thinks now: I'm just trying to guess what he might have said. – user6726 Dec 20 '18 at 18:26

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