Pedersen's law, named after the Danish linguist Holger Pedersen
, is a law of accentuation in Balto-Slavic
languages which states that the stress was retracted from stressed medial syllables in paradigms with mobile accent
It was originally proposed by Ferdinand de Saussure
for Baltic to explain forms such as Lithuanian ''dùkterį'', ''dùkteres'' (cp. Ancient Greek ''thugatéra'', ''thugatéres''), but was later generalized in 1933 to Balto-Slavic by Pedersen, who then assumed that accentual mobility spread from the consonant-stems to Balto-Slavic ''eh₂''-stems and ''o''-stems.
The term "Pedersen's law" is also applied to later Common Slavic developments in which the stress retraction to prefixes/proclitics can be traced in mobile paradigms, such as Russian ''ná vodu'' 'onto the water', ''né byl'' 'was not', ''pródal'' 'sold', and ''póvod'' 'rein'.
'daughter', with accusative singular * (Ancient Greek ''thugátēr''
, acc. sg. ''thugatéra''
) > Lithuanian ''duktė̃'', acc. sg. ''dùkterį''.
Proto-Indo-European *''poh₂imń̥'' ~ *''poh₂imén'' 'shepherd' (Ancient Greek ''poimḗn''
, accusative singluar ''poiména'') > Lithuanian ''piemuõ'', acc. sg. ''píemenį''.
Proto-Indo-European *''gʰolHwéh₂'' with Balto-Slavic semantics of 'head' > Lithuanian ''galvà'' (with accusative singular ''gálvą''), Russian ''golová''
(acc. sg. ''gólovu''), Chakavian ''glāvȁ'' (acc. sg. ''glȃvu'').
Within the relative chronology of Balto-Slavic sound changes, this law was, in its first occurrence in the Balto-Slavic period, posterior to the loss of Proto-Indo-European accentual mobility (i.e. later than the advent of Balto-Slavic mobile paradigms, such as the above-mentioned Lithuanian ''duktė̃'', as opposed to non-final stress in Ancient Greek etymons), so its application was originally limited to the inflection of polysyllabic consonant stems.
Later the retraction of stress spread by analogy to non-consonant stems in case-forms where Pedersen's law applied (commonly termed "barytonesis
"). Thus we have accusative singular forms of Lithuanian ''ãvį'' 'sheep', ''sū́nų'' 'son', ''diẽvą'' 'god', ''žiẽmą'' 'winter'. Afterwards oxytonesis, Hirt's law
, and Winter's law
* Pedersen, Holger. 1933. ''Études lituaniennes.'' København: Levin & Munksgaard.
* Kortlandt, Frederik. 1975''Slavic Accentuation - A Study in Relative Chronology''