Iosad, Pavel. 2015. ‘Pitch accent’ and prosodic structure in Scottish Gaelic: Reassessing the role of contact. In Martin Hilpert, Jan-Ola Östman, Christine Mertzlufft, Michael Rießler, and Janet Duke (ed.), New trends in Nordic and general linguistics, 28–54. Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter.
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This paper considers the origin of ‘pitch accents’ in Scottish Gaelic with a view to evaluating the hypothesis that this feature was borrowed from North Germanic varieties spoken by Norse settlers in medieval Scotland. It is shown that the ‘pitch accent’ system in Gaelic is tightly bound with metrical structure (more precisely syllable count), certainly diachronically, and probably (at least in some varieties) synchronically. Gaelic ‘pitch accent’ is argued to be a plausible internal development, parallel to similar phenomena in other branches of Celtic (specifically in Breton), as well as in Germanic. This conclusion may appear to undermine the contact hypothesis, especially in the absence of reliable written sources; nevertheless, a certain role for Norse-Gaelic contact in the appearance of the pitch accent system cannot be completely excluded