Compensatory lengthening is a common phonological process whereby the loss of some phonetic material is compensated for by the lengthening of some neighbouring phonetic material.
Greek provides a clear-cut example for the process: Proto-Greek esmi `I am' changes into Attic eimi [eːmi] and Lesbian emmi. That is, the loss of the s is made up for by lengthening the preceding vowel in Attic and the following consonant in Lesbian.
A less obvious case of compensatory lengthening is exemplified by Old Hungarian utu to Modern Hungarian út [uːt] (i.e. [uut]) `road', where the loss of the final vowel causes the lengthening of the preceding vowel. (This process could also be classified as metathesis.)The frequent occurrence of compensatory lengthening across languages is a strong argument for the separation of the melodic and the temporal aspects of speech, that is, for the autosegmental model of phonological representations.
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