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Linguistics Syllables
by
Adam I. Cooper, Draga Zec

Introduction

The syllable is a grouping of segments that typically includes a vowel preceded, and possibly followed, by consonants. The unmarked syllable type consists of a consonant vowel sequence, or CV, with the more marked types including V, CVC, VC, CCV, CCVC, CVCC, CCVCC, etc. All known languages group their segments into syllables of roughly these shapes. Crucially, while the numbers of consonants may vary, at most one vocalic element, or more generally at most one highly prominent element, may occur. Moreover, the CV syllable is present in all languages and is implied by all other syllable types. The syllable has been used as a descriptive tool in the accounts of sound patterns of individual languages. This unit goes far back, having been recognized already by the ancient Sanskrit and Greek grammarians; the word syllable can be traced back to Greek syllabē “that which is held together.” As a unit, the syllable is a purely phonological entity. The grouping of sounds that corresponds to a syllable is undefined at the levels of morphology or syntax. Clear phonetic correlates of the syllable have not yet been established, although extensive experimental work has shed light on its essential properties. The syllable is a recurrent unit, and so are sound sequences associated with it, due to this, the syllable has standardly been considered as essential for characterizing the phonotactics of segments.

Foundational Works

The syllable as a phonological unit has figured in the foundational works developed within several influential linguistic traditions of the first half of the 20th century. The listed works propose that the syllable is a unit of phonological organization. Hockett 1955 and Haugen 1956 propose a ternary syllabic constituency with onset, peak, and coda as its subparts, while Kuryłowicz 1948 and Fudge 1969 propose that the coda and peak be grouped into the rime constituent. Bloomfield 1933 simply proposes to subclassify sequences of segments into those that are syllabic and those that are non-syllabic, while Hjelmslev 1939 proposes to subclassify such sequences into nuclei and margins. Jakobson 1962 proposes an important typology of syllable inventories, with CV as a universal type present in all languages. Trubetzkoy 1939 subclassifies syllables in terms of types of nuclear and moraic segments.

Edited Collections

The edited collections listed below reflect how perspectives on the syllable varied with changes in theoretical phonology. Bell and Hooper 1978 presents case studies in support of the syllable as a phonological entity, in an era when mainstream phonology had yet to recognize the syllable as a formal unit. Van der Hulst and Ritter 1999 presents studies of a number of languages from several theoretical perspectives. Féry and van de Vijver 2003 includes accounts of syllable phonology within Optimality Theory. Cairns and Raimy 2011 includes a range of studies on the syllable, from both the formal and experimental vantage points.

Handbook Articles

Handbooks of phonology (which started appearing in the early 1990s) regularly contain a chapter dedicated to the phonological aspects of the syllable. Blevins 1995, Zec 2007, and Goldsmith 2011 present general overviews of theories of the syllable relevant for the respective stages of phonological thought. Broselow 1995 addresses so-called timing units, which connect to the segmental level on the one hand, and syllabic units on the other hand. Lehiste and Steriade 2005 addresses general issues in the organization of syllables, from both phonological and phonetic perspectives.

  • Blevins, J. 1995. The syllable in phonological theory. In The handbook of phonological theory. Edited by J. Goldsmith, 206–244. Cambridge, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

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    An overview of the syllable as a phonological constituent, the relationship between syllables and sonority, syllable-internal structure, typology, syllabification, and select problems, including: coda constraints, ambisyllabicity, and phonological/phonetic representational mismatches.

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  • Broselow, E. 1995. Skeletal positions and moras. In The handbook of phonological theory. Edited by J. Goldsmith, 175–205. Cambridge, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

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    Provides an overview of the phonological level mediating between syllable nodes and feature specifications, the so-called skeletal tier, with a focus on the mora as a skeletal unit.

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  • Goldsmith, J. 2011. Syllables. In The handbook of phonological theory. 2d ed. Edited by J. A. Goldsmith, J. Riggle, and A. C. L. Yu, 164–196. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

    DOI: 10.1002/9781444343069.ch6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents a brief history of the syllable as a phonological unit and an overview of approaches to its representation. Also surveys some examples of syllable-based alternations.

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  • Lehiste, I., and D. Steriade. 2005. Syllables. In International encyclopedia of linguistics. Edited by W. J. Frawley. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Includes two sections: one on the syllable in phonology, dealing with syllabification, sonority, weight, subsyllabic constituency, knowledge of structure and its explanatory role; and one on syllables and stress in phonetics. Accessible online.

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  • Zec, D. 2007. The syllable. In The Cambridge handbook of phonology. Edited by P. de Lacy, 161–194. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511486371.009Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An overview of the syllable and its claimed role in phonotactics, basic syllable shapes, approaches to subsyllabic constituency, and sonority.

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Syllabic Constituency, Phonotactics, and Weight

At least three types of structures have been proposed: flat structure, binary onset/rime structure, and moraic structure. Bosch 2011 provides an overview of the perspectives outlined in the following subsections.

  • Bosch, A. R. K. 2011. Syllable-internal structure. In The Blackwell companion to phonology. Vol. II. Edited by M. van Oostendorp, C. J. Ewen, E. Hume, and K. Rice, 781–798. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

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    Presents an overview of different representations of syllable-internal structure, drawing also on experimental evidence for constituency.

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Flat Structure

Flat structure was primarily motivated by a desire to capture phonotactics. While all the works listed here propose a flat structure, only Anderson 1969 and Lowenstamm 1981 assume that segments are directly dominated by the syllable node. Kahn 1976 and Kahn 1980 invoke the CV timing tier as a mediator between segments and the syllable node; the same perspective is adopted by Clements and Keyser 1983. As part of the authors’ pioneering work introducing the framework of Optimality Theory, Prince and Smolensky 2004 proposes to capture cross-linguistic variation in permitted syllable structure in terms of ranking of violable constraints.

  • Anderson, J. 1969. Syllabic or non-syllabic phonology? Journal of Linguistics 5:136–143.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0022226700002115Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues against the claim that the syllable is a redundant unit. Maintains a flat syllable structure, involving immediate segmental domination.

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  • Clements, G. N., and S. J. Keyser. 1983. CV phonology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    Presents a typology of syllable structure. Argues against the rime as a domain of phonological processes. Posits flat structure with a nucleus projection in a rule-based framework.

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  • Kahn, D. 1976. Syllable-based generalizations in English phonology. PhD diss., Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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    Proposes a syllable-based account of English phonotactics in which consonant distribution at word-edges is predictive of word-internal distribution. Proposes flat structure in a rule-based framework.

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  • Kahn, D. 1980. Syllable-structure specifications in phonological rules. In Juncture. Edited by M. Aronoff and M.-L. Kean, 91–105. Saratoga, CA: Anma Libri.

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    Argues that a simpler and more natural account is obtained for a number of phonological processes in English through reference to the syllable as a structural unit, rather than resorting to boundary symbols.

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  • Lowenstamm, J. 1981. On the maximal cluster approach to syllable structure. Linguistic Inquiry 12.4: 575–604.

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    Argues for the role of segment quality in determining maximal clusters at syllable margins.

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  • Prince, A., and P. Smolensky. 2004. Optimality Theory: Constraint interaction in generative grammar. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

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    Presents a constraint-based approach to syllable structure cast in Optimality Theory, with NUCLEUS, ONSET, and NOCODA as crucial constraints, which, through interaction with faithfulness constraints, capture the Jakobsonian typology of syllable shapes. Originally published in 1993.

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Onset-Rime Structure

All works listed here argue for an onset-rime syllabic constituency, with the rime being the weight domain of the syllable. Halle and Vergnaud 1980 proposes to capture a number of phonological processes in terms of the rime constituent of the syllable, and Steriade 1982 adopts the same type of representation. In both works, the association of syllabic subconstituents with segments is mediated by the CV timing tier. Levin 1985 proposes a modification of the timing tier, with CV skeletal units replaced by X skeletal units. Kiparsky 1979 and Kiparsky 1981 propose to express the onset/rime division in terms of metrical structure. Selkirk 1982 furnishes arguments for onset and rime subconstituents as independent phonotactic domains. Duanmu 2009 further argues for the onset/rime organization of the syllable, based on evidence from a number of languages.

  • Duanmu, S. 2009. Syllable structure: The limits of variation. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Argues that the maximal syllable is CVX (where VX constitutes the rime and X can be the continuation of a long vowel or diphthong, or a consonant), in view of evidence from Chinese languages, English, German, and Jiarong.

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  • Halle, M., and J.-R. Vergnaud. 1980. Three dimensional phonology. Journal of Linguistic Research 1:83–105.

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    Argues for binary differentiation in syllable structure: onset versus rime, and within the rime, nucleus versus coda. Maintains the syllable as a means of encoding weight. Focuses on languages differentiating light CV versus heavy CVV and CVC in quantity-sensitive processes.

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  • Kiparsky, P. 1979. Metrical structure assignment is cyclic. Linguistic Inquiry 10:421–441.

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    Presents arguments in favor of a cyclic view of metrical structure assignment. Takes a templatic approach to syllable structure. Argues for the relevance of sonority in the organization of the syllable. Characterizes sonority classes by major class features.

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  • Kiparsky, P. 1981. Remarks on the metrical structure of the syllable. In Phonologica 1980. Edited by W. Dressler, O. Pfeiffer, and J. Rennison, 245–256. Innsbruck, Austria: Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Sprachwissenschaft.

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    Presents a templatic approach to syllable structure. Argues for the relevance of sonority in the organization of the syllable. Characterizes sonority classes by major class features.

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  • Levin, J. 1985. A metrical theory of syllabicity. PhD diss., Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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    Argues for binarity in syllable structure: onset versus rime, and within the rime, nucleus versus coda. Identifies phonological processes motivated by syllable structural considerations. Syllable building rules make reference to the X skeletal tier.

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  • Selkirk, E. O. 1982. Syllables. In The structure of phonological representations. Vol. 2. Edited by H. van der Hulst and N. Smith, 337–383. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Foris.

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    Argues for binarity in syllable structure: onset versus rime, and within the rime, nucleus versus coda.

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  • Steriade, D. 1982. Greek prosodies and the nature of syllabification. PhD diss., Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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    Presents an analysis of Greek syllable structure. Argues for a binary approach to syllable structure (onset versus rhyme, nucleus versus coda). Analyzes syllable phonotactics in terms of restrictions on minimal sonority distance.

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Moraic Structure

The proposal to capture the weight structure of the syllable by positing moras as units of the timing tier, and as subsyllabic constituents, is due to Hyman 1985 and McCarthy and Prince 1996. Hayes 1989 further argues for this constituency by demonstrating its relevance for compensatory lengthening.

  • Hayes, B. 1989. Compensatory lengthening in moraic phonology. Linguistic Inquiry 20:253–306.

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    Argues for a structural representation of syllable weight in view of the phenomenon of compensatory lengthening, arguing for the mora as a weight unit, which also serves as subsyllabic structural unit.

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  • Hyman, Larry. 1985. A theory of phonological weight. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Foris.

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    Provides evidence for the mora as a weight unit, thus developing the moraic theory of subsyllabic constituency.

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  • McCarthy, J., and A. Prince. 1996. Prosodic morphology. Report No. RuCCS-TR-32. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Center for Cognitive Science.

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    Proposes a moraic theory of subsyllabic constituency, arguing against the onset-rime divide. Presents a templatic approach to syllable structure. Originally published in 1986.

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Subsyllabic Constituents

A typical way of examining syllable-internal structure differentiates between the most prominent portion of a syllable, its Nucleus, and its less prominent Margins, which may include onset and/or coda segments.

Nucleus

The nucleus is generally held to be the only obligatory portion of the syllable, containing the most sonorous segment of the unit. Its place in syllable theory ranges from a purely descriptive entity, to a necessary constituent of syllabic structure (as argued by, among other works, Kenstowicz and Rubach 1987).

Glides

One locus of discussion on the topic of the nucleus has concerned the relationship between high vowels and their glide counterparts. Guerssel 1986, Waksler 1990, and Rosenthall 1994 have all sought to account for the alternation of high vowels in nuclear and non-nuclear positions.

  • Guerssel, M. 1986. Glides in Berber and syllabicity. Linguistic Inquiry 17:1–12.

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    Proposes an analysis distinguishing glides and high vowels that does not make use of the feature [syllabic].

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  • Rosenthall, S. 1994. Vowel/glide alternation in a theory of constraint interaction. PhD diss., Univ. of Massachusetts at Amherst.

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    Accounts for the distribution of high vowels and glides as resulting from the evaluation of moraic and non-moraic syllabifications against active phonological constraints.

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  • Waksler, R. 1990. A formal account of glide/vowel alternation in prosodic theory. PhD diss., Harvard Univ.

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    Presents an analysis of the distribution of glides and high vowels, assuming their underlying underspecification of syllabicity, which is contextually supplied.

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Syllabic Consonants

While the nucleus is arguably most often filled by a vowel, some languages allow consonants to occupy this position as well. Bell 1978 presents a survey of languages featuring syllabic consonants. Dell and Elmedlaoui 1985 and Dell and Elmedlaoui 1988 have demonstrated that there is at least one language, the Imdlawn Tashlhiyt dialect of Berber, in which any consonant can be syllabic, given the appropriate conditions. The initial findings of these authors have subsequently been supported by the phonetic and phonological exploration in Ridouane 2008, and augmented by the phonetic experimentation in Fougeron and Ridouane 2008.

  • Bell, A. 1978. Syllabic consonants. In Universals of human language. Vol. 2, Phonology. Edited by J. Greenberg, 153–201. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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    A typological survey of languages with consonantal nuclei.

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  • Dell, F., and M. Elmedlaoui. 1985. Syllabic consonants and syllabification in Imdlawn Tashlhiyt Berber. Journal of African Languages and Linguistics 7:105–130.

    DOI: 10.1515/jall.1985.7.2.105Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents evidence from the Imdlawn Tashlhiyt dialect of Berber suggesting that all segments in this language, given the appropriate circumstances, can constitute the nucleus of a syllable.

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  • Dell, F., and M. Elmedlaoui. 1988. Syllabic consonants in Berber: Some new evidence. Journal of African Languages and Linguistics 10:1–17.

    DOI: 10.1515/jall.1988.10.1.1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A follow-up to the preceding paper, incorporating additional arguments for the authors’ view of nucleus constituency in Tashlhiyt Berber.

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  • Fougeron, C., and R. Ridouane. 2008. On the phonetic implementation of syllabic consonants and vowel-less syllables in Tashlhiyt. Estudios de Fonética Experimental 17:139–175.

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    Presents results of an acoustic and electropalatographic study of vowel-less syllables, showing a lack of effect of syllable position on consonant duration, but the importance of syllable organization for coordination between consonants.

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  • Ridouane, R. 2008. Syllables without vowels: Phonetic and phonological evidence from Tashlhiyt Berber. Phonology 25:321–359.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0952675708001498Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents additional evidence—results of three experiments and examination of two types of phonological data—arguing for the existence of vowelless syllables at the phonetic and phonological levels in this language.

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Syllables without Nuclei

As a means of accounting for consonant clusters featuring striking sonority-sequencing violations, Cho and King 2003 and Féry 2003 argue that some languages allow syllables without nuclei.

  • Cho, Y. Y., and T. H. King. 2003. Semisyllables and universal syllabification. In The syllable in Optimality Theory. Edited by C. Féry and R. van de Vijver, 183–212. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511497926Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Proposes an alternative approach to accounting for surface violations of the sonority sequencing principle. Focuses on data from Georgian, Polish, and Bella Coola, which involves the notion of mora-less syllables, or semisyllables.

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  • Féry, C. 2003. Onsets and nonmoraic syllables in German. In The syllable in Optimality Theory. Edited by C. Féry and R. van de Vijver, 213–237. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511497926.009Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Proposes an analysis of nonappendical word-final segments as onsets of nuclei-less semisyllables, which is claimed to account for a variety of weight- and segmental-centered facts in German.

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Margins

In addition to its nuclear core, a syllable may be further characterized by the presence of segments of relatively lower sonority (or sequences thereof). Segment(s) preceding the nucleus constitute the syllable Onsets; segment(s) following the nucleus, the syllable Codas. While onsets and codas are usually not subject to co-occurrence restrictions within the syllable, many languages place restrictions on permitted coda + onset sequences across syllables, an issue of Syllable Contact.

Onsets

It is held as a linguistic universal that all languages allow syllables with onsets (it is a language-specific matter, however, whether all syllables must have onset). Topintzi 2011 provides an overview of the issues relating to this component of the syllable. Davis 1990 argues for the status of the syllable onset as a constituent (rather than a descriptive convenience). In line with the linguistic universality of CV, Downing 1998 seeks to account for onsetless syllables in terms of their exceptional status, and Smith 2002 identifies the syllable onset as a locus of perceptual augmentation. Finally, languages naturally differ as to which segments or sequences of segments constitute a well-formed onset; as examined by Smith 2003 and Smith 2008, some languages place restrictions on simple onsets, preferring consonants of lower sonority in this position. Along these lines Flack 2009 amply demonstrates how the distribution of onsets may also be conditioned by position in the word, with differences holding word-initially versus word-medially.

  • Davis, S. 1990. The onset as a constituent of the syllable: Evidence from Italian. In CLS 26: Papers from the 26th regional meeting of the Chicago linguistic society. Vol. 2, The parasession on the syllable in phonetics and phonology. Edited by M. Ziolkowski, M. Noske, and K. Deaton, 71–79. Chicago: Chicago Linguistics Society.

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    Argues for an onset constituent on the basis of evidence from definite article selection in Italian.

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  • Downing, L. 1998. On the prosodic misalignment of onsetless syllables. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 16:1–52.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1005968714712Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents a Generalized Alignment approach to capturing the prosodic exceptionality of onsetless syllables.

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  • Flack, K. 2009. Constraints on onsets and codas of words and phrases. Phonology 26:269–302.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0952675709990133Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes restrictions on onsets and codas in a variety of languages that are argued to hold at levels of the Prosodic Hierarchy higher than the syllable.

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  • Smith, J. L. 2002. Phonological augmentation in prominent positions. PhD diss., Univ. of Massachusetts at Amherst.

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    Differentiates phonological processes specific to strong positions such as word-initial onset from other types of effects, tying them to the enhancement of perceptual salience.

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  • Smith, J. L.. Onset sonority constraints and subsyllabic structure. Revised version of paper presented at the Ninth International Phonology Meeting, University of Vienna, 3 November 2002.

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    Provides a functionally grounded account of liquid-specific onset prohibitions through appeal to a formally defined series of constraints distinguishing two types of glide syllabification.

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  • Smith, J. L. 2008. Phonological constraints are not directly phonetic. In Proceedings of the Chicago Linguistic Society (CLS) 41. Edited by R. L. Edwards, P. J. Midtlying, C. L. Sprague, and K. G. Stensrud, 457–471. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.

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    Argues that constraints cannot directly encode phonetic information in view of restrictions on onset prohibitions, which have a common functional basis but must be formally differentiated.

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  • Topintzi, N. 2011. Onsets. In The Blackwell companion to phonology. Edited by M. van Oostendorp, C. J. Ewen, E. Hume, and K. Rice, 1285–1308. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

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    Addresses the role of onsets within the syllable, including the organization of onset consonant sequences, the onset/coda asymmetry, and their potential contribution to syllable weight.

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Complex Onsets

While complex onsets (a sequence of two or more segments preceding the nucleus) generally rise in sonority (a natural extension of the generalization that onsets are less sonorous than nuclei), deviations from such systematicity within and across languages have made analyzing these structures the focus of considerable work. Baertsch 2002 develops an Optimality Theoretic analysis for language-specific inventories of complex onsets. Morelli 1999, Morelli 2003, and Kreitman 2008 provide a clear picture of the range of variation in complex onset inventories across languages. Finally, Green 2003 shows how the distribution of complex onsets, much like the distribution of simplex onsets, may also be conditioned by position in the word, with differences holding word-initially versus word-medially.

  • Baertsch, K. 2002. An Optimality Theoretic approach to syllable structure: The split margin hierarchy. PhD diss., Indiana Univ.

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    Accounts for complex onsets by introducing two margin hierarchies: one preferring low sonority, the other high sonority; thus pl- but lp-. Proposes the same mechanism to account for syllable contact.

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  • Green, A. D. 2003. Extrasyllabic consonants and onset well-formedness. In The syllable in Optimality Theory. Edited by C. Féry and R. van de Vijver, 238–253. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511497926Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the permissibility of consonant clusters at the left-edge of higher prosodic levels in Icelandic, Attic Greek, and Munster Irish, which are not licit syllable onsets, and argues for a set of universally ranked onset well-formedness constraints to account for this asymmetric distribution.

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  • Kreitman, R. 2008. The phonetics and phonology of onset clusters: The case of modern Hebrew. PhD diss., Cornell Univ.

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    Surveys a number of languages revealing a series of typological implications for the permissibility of biconsonantal complex onsets, showing obstruent + sonorant to be most common and sonorant + obstruent least so.

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  • Morelli, F. 1999. The phonotactics and phonology of obstruent clusters in Optimality Theory. PhD diss., Univ. of Maryland.

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    Proposes a typology of obstruent clusters at the left edge of the syllable.

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  • Morelli, F. 2003. The relative harmony of /s+stop/ onsets: Obstruent clusters and the sonority sequencing principle. In The syllable in Optimality Theory. Edited by C. Féry and R. van de Vijver, 356–371. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511497926Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents the results of a survey of obstruent clusters suggesting the unmarkedness of fricative + stop clusters (particularly s + stop clusters). Develops an Optimality Theoretic analysis to account for this finding.

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Codas

Unlike onsets, codas are not found in all languages. Those languages that do permit codas differ as to what may constitute a licit one and furthermore may place restrictions on segments that occur in the coda, as examined in Ito 1986 and Ito and Mester 2003. As opposed to the syllable onset, the syllable coda is usually identified as a relatively weak structural position; Rubach 1990, Jun 1995, and McCarthy 2008 have shown how the coda can be the locus of processes that tend to reduce perceptual salience, such as assimilation. Complex codas, a sequence of two or more segments following the nucleus, generally fall in sonority (a natural extension of the generalization that codas are less sonorous than nuclei), but again, this is subject to language-specific variation and is an issue explored in Lamontagne 1993. Gordon 2002a and Gordon 2002b explore the relevance of the phonetic properties of coda consonants for their weight status.

Word-Final Codas

Those languages that do permit codas may place restrictions on codas relative to position in the word—particularly word-final position—as shown in, among other works, Broselow 2003, Wiltshire 1992, and Wiltshire 2003. Additionally, Harris and Gussmann 1998 argues that word-final segments should be analyzed as onsets to syllables headed by empty nuclei. Piggott 1999 takes an intermediate view between this approach and the approach that treats final segments as true codas.

Syllable Contact

Languages may restrict the sequences of segments permitted in the transition of one syllable to the next; Seo 2011 provides an overview of this issue. Gouskova 2004 provides an Optimality Theory of the interaction of permissible syllable contacts and sonority. Davis 1998 and Baertsch and Davis 2001 address the same issue, proposing an analysis in terms of constraint conjunction. Rose 2000 shows how illicit syllable contacts may be resolved through phenomena such as epenthesis. Syllable contact preferences may also be seen as a motivating force in language change, as Vennemann 1988 argues. Finally, Seo 2003 proposes that many of the phenomena commonly under the rubric of syllable contact may be reinterpreted in terms of segment contact.

  • Baertsch, K., and S. Davis. 2001. Turkic C+/l/(uster) phonology. In CLS 37: Proceedings from the annual meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society. Edited by M. Andronis, C. Ball, H. Elston, and S. Neuvel, 29–43. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.

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    Proposes an Optimality Theoretic analysis of Turkish in terms of constraint conjunction.

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  • Davis, S. 1998. Syllable contact in Optimality Theory. Journal of Korean Linguistics 23:181–211.

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    Explores issues of syllable contact on the basis of Korean data.

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  • Gouskova, M. 2004. Relational hierarchies in Optimality Theory: The case of syllable contact. Phonology 21:201–250.

    DOI: 10.1017/S095267570400020XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Studies restrictions on sonority slope in Faroese, Icelandic, Sidamo, Kazakh, and Kirghiz and develops an Optimality Theoretic analysis to account for them.

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  • Rose, S. 2000. Epenthesis positioning and syllable contact in Chaha. Phonology 17:397–425.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0952675701003931Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents evidence from Chaha suggesting that in this language the location of epenthesis is conditioned by syllable contact preferences, even if its triggering is usually not.

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  • Seo, M. 2003. A segment contact account of the patterning of sonorants in consonant clusters. PhD diss., Ohio State Univ.

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    Reinterprets phonological processes affecting consonant clusters featuring a sonorant as motivated not by syllable contact but by segment contact and closely related to speech perception.

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  • Seo, M. 2011. Syllable contact. In The Blackwell companion to phonology. Edited by M. van Oostendorp, C. J. Ewen, E. Hume, and K. Rice, 1245–1262. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

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    Presents an overview of the notion of syllable contact that touches upon a number of issues, including the relationship of syllable contact with the sonority dispersion principle, its nature as categorical or gradient, and its characterization as a language-specific constraint on minimal sonority distance.

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  • Vennemann, T. 1988. Preference laws for syllable structure and the explanation of sound change. Berlin: de Gruyter.

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    Presents a number of syllable-related “preference laws,” concerned with onset/coda constituency and syllable contact, and explores the ways in which such laws can motivate sound change.

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Controversy about the Rime

Whether the rime is a necessary constituent of the syllable has been the subject of much debate. Davis 1989 engaged in a debate of this issue with Fudge 1987, arguing against positing the rime; Fudge 1989, written in response, further argues for the rime. Steriade 1988 strongly argues in favor of the rime, questioning the proposal in Clements and Keyser 1983 (cited under Flat Structure) that syllables have a flat, rimeless structure.

Further Issues in Syllable Weight

A number of further important issues regarding syllable weight, including the possible weight profiles of syllables, the selection of weight-bearing segments, the weight status of geminates, the weight status of onsets, the variable weight of CVC syllables, etc., are addressed in the works included here. Zec 2011 and Davis 2012 both provide overviews of these issues.

  • Davis, S. 2012. Quantity. In The handbook of phonological theory. 2nd ed. Edited by J. A. Goldsmith, J. Riggle, and A. C. L. Yu, 103–140. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

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    Presents an overview of different aspects of syllable weight, from the perspective of moraic theory.

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  • Zec, D. 2011. Quantity-sensitivity. In The Blackwell companion to phonology. Edited by M. van Oostendorp, C. J. Ewen, E. Hume, and K. Rice, 1335–1361. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

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    A survey of quantity-sensitive phonological phenomena, focused mostly on the syllable.

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Types of Weight Systems

Newman 1972 brings attention to the type of weight system where CV syllables are light and CVV, CVC syllables are heavy. Hyman 1977 further notes that there is also a weight system in which CV and CVC syllables are light and CVV syllables are heavy, and McCarthy 1979 provides further evidence for this additional type. Sherer 1994 addresses the issue of superheavy syllables and their place in the grammar.

  • Hyman, L. M. 1977. On the nature of linguistic stress. In Studies in stress and accent. Edited by L. M. Hyman, 37–82. Southern California Occasional Papers in Linguistics 4. Los Angeles: Univ. of Southern California.

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    Classic work that posits a distinction between languages with heavy CVV, CVC syllables and light CV syllables, and languages with heavy CVV syllables and light CV, CVC syllables.

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  • McCarthy, J. 1979. On stress and syllabification. Linguistic Inquiry 10:443–466.

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    Maintains a distinction light/heavy as part of an analysis of stress assignment with two types of weight systems: CV versus CVV, CVC; and CV, CVC vs. CVV. Proposes to capture this distinction in representational terms.

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  • Newman, P. 1972. Syllable weight as a phonological variable. Studies in African Linguistics 3:301–323.

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    A classic work that posits CVV, CVC as a heavy syllable type, based on data from Latin, Classical Greek, Finnish, Estonian, Classical Arabic, Gothic, and three Chadic languages.

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  • Sherer, T. 1994. Prosodic phonotactics. PhD diss., Univ. of Massachusetts at Amherst.

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    Explores the weight patterns in syllables, proposing the appendix node that dominates light coda consonants, and a theory and typology of trimoraic (hypercharacterized) syllables.

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Moras as Weight Units

The works listed here explore the relation between moraicity and weight. Zec 1988 and Zec 1995 show that the weight-bearing status of consonants varies with their sonority. Morén 1999 proposes Optimality Theoretic constraints that capture the moraic status of consonants. Bagemihl 1991 and Kiparsky 2003 argue that the mora as a prosodic constituent could dominate segments without being included in any syllables.

Feet and Their Relation to Weight

The works listed below explore how foot structure, or more generally metrical structure, interacts with syllable structure, and in particular with different systems of syllable weight. Prince 1983 captures the relation between higher prosodic levels and syllables in terms of grid structures. Prince 1992 and Hayes 1995 directly relate weight tendencies of trochaic and iambic feet with the level of syllable weight. Zec 2003 proposes that minimal sonority thresholds hold not only at the syllable level but also at the foot level.

Geminates

There has been much debate about the weight status of geminate consonants. Davis 2003 claims that geminates are invariably weight bearing, whereas Tranel 1991 claims that geminates are weight bearing only in those languages in which CVC syllables are also weight bearing.

Context-Governed Variable Weight

The works listed below present empirical evidence that questions the standard view that the weight of CVC syllables is invariable within a language. Hayes 1994 is among the first works that document contextual variable weight and address the problems this phenomenon raises for phonological theory. Rosenthall and van der Hulst 1999 and Morén 2000 demonstrate how Optimality Theory can handle this phenomenon. Gordon 2004 and Elías-Ulloa 2006 present further cases of variable weight from Tamil, Hupa, and Panoan languages, respectively.

Process-Governed Variable Weight

It has been noted that in some languages, weight-sensitive phonological processes may be subject to different weight criteria. Gordon 2004 and Gordon 2006 show that in certain languages weight criteria applied to stress-related processes differ from weight criteria applied to tone-related processes. Focusing on process-governed variable weight in Ancient Greek, Steriade 1990 differentiates between different types of moraic segments.

Onset Weight

While it has generally been assumed that onset segments do not contribute to syllable weight, Everett and Everett 1984, Topintzi 2008, and Topintzi 2010 have advanced the opposite position. Goedemans 1998, however, continues to argue for the weightless status of onsets.

The Role of Sonority in Syllable Structure

Sonority has an essential role in capturing the properties of syllable structure in a number of approaches, including many works listed above as Foundational Works, or those listed in Further Issues in Syllable Weight. The works listed here directly address the role of sonority in the organization of syllables. Vennemann 1972 points at the relevance of sonority in accounting for Icelandic syllables, Hankamer and Aissen 1974 claims that the sonority of segments is crucial in capturing phonological processes in Pali, and Hooper 1976 relies on the sonority hierarchy in the author’s analysis of syllables in Spanish. Selkirk 1984 adopts sonority as a multivalued feature, due to its relevance for syllabic phonology. Clements 1990 presents a detailed discussion of the cross-linguistic relevance of sonority in the typology of syllable shapes. Ohala 1992 and Parker 2002 propose acoustic correlates of the sonority of segments.

  • Clements, G. N. 1990. The role of the sonority cycle in core syllabification. In Papers in laboratory phonology 1: Between the grammar and physics of speech. Edited by J. Kingston and M. Beckman, 283–333. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511627736.017Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues for the relevance of sonority in the organization of the syllable and characterizes sonority classes by major class features.

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  • Hankamer, J., and J. Aissen. 1974. The sonority hierarchy. In Papers from the parasession on natural phonology. Edited by A. Bruck, R. A. Fox, and M. W. la Galy, 131–145. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.

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    Accounts for the pattern of consonant loss and consonant gemination in Pali by invoking the sonority hierarchy; in a sequence of two intervocalic consonants, the more sonorous segment is lost, and the less sonorous segment geminates.

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  • Hooper, Joan B. 1976. An introduction to natural generative phonology. New York: Academic.

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    Argues for the relevance of sonority in the organization of the syllable and for its representation in the grammar as an integer-based multivalued feature. Accounts for phonotactics in terms of restrictions on minimal sonority distance.

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  • Ohala, J. 1992. Alternatives to the sonority hierarchy for explaining segmental sequential constraints. In CLS 26: Papers from the 26th regional meeting of the Chicago linguistic society. Vol. 2, The parasession on the syllable in phonetics and phonology. Edited by M. Ziolkowski, M. Noske, and K. Deaton, 319–339. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.

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    Takes issue with sonority-based hierarchies in explaining syllable structure and phonotactics, proposing instead an approach relying on a measure of the degree of modulation in a number of acoustic parameters.

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  • Parker, S. 2002. Quantifying the sonority hierarchy. PhD diss., Univ. of Massachusetts.

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    Proposes a sonority scale grounded in acoustic properties of segments.

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  • Selkirk, E. O. 1984. On the major class features and syllable theory. In Language sound structure. Edited by M. Aronoff and R. Oehrle, 107–136. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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    Argues for replacing the major class features with a multivalued feature sonority whose values are expressed as features. The distribution of segments in the syllable is governed by their sonority values as well as a sonority sequencing generalization.

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  • Vennemann, T. 1972. On the theory of syllabic phonology. Linguistische Berichte 18:1–18.

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    Argues for the relevance of a scale of consonantal strength (non-distinct from what is known as the sonority scale) in the characterization of Icelandic syllables.

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Ambisyllabicity

Originally proposed in Kahn 1976 (cited under Syllabic Constituency, Phonotactics, and Weight: Flat Structure), ambisyllabicity concerns the representation of a consonant that is linked to more than one syllable. Borowsky, et al. 1984 addresses the phonological representation of ambisyllabicity. Green 1997 demonstrates its role in the distribution of stress in Irish. Van Oostendorp 2003 relies on the ambisyllabic/monosyllabic contrast in accounting for fricative voicing in West Germanic. An early argument against ambisyllabicity is presented in Eliason 1942. Jensen 2000 takes a strong position against ambisyllabic representations in phonology.

  • Borowsky, T. J., J. Ito, and R.-A. Mester. 1984. The formal representation of ambisyllabicity: Evidence from Danish. In Proceedings of the fourteenth meeting of the North East Linguistic Society. Edited by C. Jones and P. Sells, 34–48. Amherst, MA: Graduate Linguistic Student Association.

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    Analyzes ambisyllabic consonants as geminates in their formal representation and raises the issue of whether a language that has geminates can have ambisyllabic consonants.

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  • Eliason, N. E. 1942. On syllable division in phonemics. Language 18.2: 144–147.

    DOI: 10.2307/408980Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Takes issue with claims on the ambisyllabic affiliation of an intervocalic consonant following a stressed vowel in English.

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  • Green, A. D. 1997. The prosodic structure of Irish, Scots Gaelic, and Manx. PhD diss., Cornell Univ.

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    Uses ambisyllabicity to account for a requirement in Irish dialects that a stressed short vowel be in close contact with a consonant.

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  • Jensen, J. T. 2000. Against ambisyllabicity. Phonology 17:187–235.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0952675700003912Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues against ambisyllabicity and resyllabification, promoting instead an approach in which independently motivated prosodic categories can account for all the relevant phenomena.

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  • van Oostendorp, M. 2003. Ambisyllabicity and fricative voicing in West Germanic. In The syllable in Optimality Theory. Edited by C. Féry and R. van de Vijver, 304–337. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511497926Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Claims contrasts in fricative voicing in the languages studied can be captured by underlying contrasts between ambisyllabic and monosyllabic segments.

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Experimental Approaches

This section presents contributions of experimental phonetics and computational modeling to the current understanding of the syllable.

Early Work

Early works revolve around the chest pulse theory of the syllable, developed by R. H. Stetson (Stetson 1928). Ladefoged 1967 presents a definitive argument against this approach to syllable phonetics.

Later Work

Later works present a wide range of experimental findings about the nature of syllable structure. Topics in acquisition, perception, and production are included in the following subsections.

Acquisition

The studies listed here evaluate the relevance of syllables in acquisition. Goad and Brannen 2003 argues for the prevalence of CV syllables in early stages of acquisition. Liberman, et al. 1974 presents experimental results, according to which at early stages of acquisition it is harder for children to analyze utterances into phonemes than into syllables. Zamuner, et al. 2004 argues that probability of occurrence plays a crucial role in acquisition, while Stites, et al. 2004 claims that both probability of occurrence and markedness are relevant for acquisition.

  • Goad, H., and K. Brannen. 2003. Phonetic evidence for phonological structure in syllabification. In The phonological spectrum. Vol. 2, Suprasegmental structure. Edited by J. van de Weijer, V. van Heuven, and H. van der Hulst, 3–30. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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    Argues that word-final consonants emerge in child language production first as onset-nuclear sequences, based on the presence of phonetic properties characteristic of such sequences, suggesting the relevance of CV syllables in early acquisition.

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  • Liberman, I. Y., D. Shankweiler, F. W. Fisher, and B. Carter. 1974. Explicit syllable and phoneme segmentation in the young child. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 18:201–212.

    DOI: 10.1016/0022-0965(74)90101-5Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Experimental results suggest that children’s analysis of spoken utterances into phonemes is a more difficult operation, and perfected later, than analysis into syllables. The implication for this finding on the nature of writing systems is also considered.

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  • Stites, J., K. Demuth, and C. Kirk. 2004. Markedness versus frequency effects in coda acquisition. In Proceedings of the 28th annual Boston University Conference on Language Development. Edited by A. Brugos, L. Micciulla, and C. E. Smith, 565–576. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla.

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    Experimental evidence shows that the strategy for early coda acquisition could be governed either by frequency or by markedness. Learners may adopt either frequency or markedness as their strategy for early coda adoption in English.

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  • Zamuner, T. S., L. Gerken, and M. Hammond. 2004. Phonotactic probabilities in young children’s speech production. Journal of Child Language 31:515–536.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0305000904006233Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The experiment detailed in this article shows that in a repetition task of CVC non-words children were more likely to produce the same coda in high phonotactic probability non-words, arguing for the role of phonotactic probability in language acquisition.

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Perception

The studies listed here evaluate the relevance of syllables in perception. Mehler, et al. 1981, Redford and Randall 2005, and Kabak and Idsardi 2007 show the effect of syllabification on perception. Yet Cutler, et al. 1986 argues that syllables may not serve as perceptual units in all languages. Derwing 1992 provides experimental support for universal tendencies in syllabification. Maddieson 1985 and Treiman 1986 provide experimental evidence for the rime constituent. Finally, Treiman and Danis 1988 experimentally explores various factors that influence syllabification tasks.

  • Cutler, A., J. Mehler, D. Norris, and J. Segui. 1986. The syllable’s differing role in the segmentation of French and English. Journal of Memory and Language 25:385–400.

    DOI: 10.1016/0749-596X(86)90033-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues for the difference in segmentation strategies between French listeners who perceive syllables in both French and English, and English listeners who fail to perceive syllables in either language.

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  • Derwing, B. 1992. A ‘pause-break’ task for eliciting syllable boundary judgments from literate and illiterate speakers: Preliminary results from five diverse languages. Language and Speech 35:219–235.

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    Introduces and presents results of a new “pause-break” task in the study of English, Arabic, Blackfoot, Korean, and Swiss-German; among other things the results reveal widespread tendency to syllabify V.CV and VC.CV.

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  • Kabak, B., and W. Idsardi. 2007. Perceptual distortions in the adaptation of English consonant clusters: Syllable structure or consonantal contact constraints? Language and Speech 50:23–52.

    DOI: 10.1177/00238309070500010201Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Results of an experiment testing Korean speakers’ perception of English consonantal sequences suggest perceptual epenthesis is governed by restrictions on syllable structure, not consonantal contact.

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  • Maddieson, I. 1985. Phonetic cues to syllabification. In Phonetic linguistics: Essays in honor of Peter Ladefoged. Edited by V. A. Fromkin, 203–221. Orlando, FL: Academic.

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    Presents experimental evidence for closed syllable vowel shortening as a phonetic universal and suggests that the syllable rime is a unit of organization in speech production.

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  • Mehler, J., J. Y. Dommergues, U. Frauenfelder, and J. Segui. 1981. The syllable’s role in speech segmentation. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 20:298–305.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0022-5371(81)90450-3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues for the role of the syllable in speech perception, based on results from two experiments assessing reaction times in processing words sharing common segmental structure but having differing syllable structure.

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  • Redford, M. A., and P. Randall. 2005. The role of juncture cues and phonological knowledge in English syllabification judgments. Journal of Phonetics 33.1: 27–46.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.wocn.2004.05.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Experimental results suggest a two-step model of syllabification, whereby juncture cues play a role in listeners’ judgments of boundary location only if a unique syllabification is not identified by phonological knowledge.

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  • Treiman, R. 1986. The division between onsets and rimes in English syllables. Journal of Memory and Language 25:476–491.

    DOI: 10.1016/0749-596X(86)90039-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents experimental evidence for onset and rime constituency, for real words and non-words, and for three-consonant onsets and one- and two-consonant onsets.

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  • Treiman, R., and C. Danis. 1988. Syllabification of intervocalic consonants. Journal of Memory and Language 27:87–104.

    DOI: 10.1016/0749-596X(88)90050-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents results of oral and written syllabification tasks, showing the influence of spelling, stress, and the nature of the segments involved.

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Production

The studies listed below explore the relevance of the syllable as a unit in speech production. Browman and Goldstein 1988 and Fujimura 1992 investigate the role of the syllable in gestural coordination. Byrd, et al. 2005 and Byrd and Choi 2010 investigate the effects of syllable boundaries on articulatory timing. Broselow, et al. 1997 examines the effect of the weight structure of syllables on consonant duration. Sevald, et al. 1995 provides experimental evidence for the status of syllables as abstract schemas. Stenneken, et al. 2005 demonstrates that aphasic speakers prefer unmarked syllable shapes. Krakow 1999 provides a broad overview of studies on the syllable as a physiological unit.

  • Broselow, E., S. Chen, and M. Huffman. 1997. Syllable weight: Convergence of phonology and phonetics. Phonology 14:47–82.

    DOI: 10.1017/S095267579700331XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines three patterns of coda weight in Hindi, Malayalam, and Levantine Arabic. Finds a correlation between phonetic duration and moraic representation.

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  • Browman, C. P., and L. Goldstein. 1988. Some notes on syllable structure in articulatory phonology. Phonetica 45:140–155.

    DOI: 10.1159/000261823Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Develops an account of the syllable sensitive to the temporal coordination of gestures in the production of consonantal onset and vocalic nucleus.

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  • Byrd, D., and S. Choi. 2010. At the juncture of prosody, phonology, and phonetics—The interaction of phrasal and syllable structure in shaping the timing of consonant gestures. In Proceedings of Laboratory Phonology X. Edited by C. Fougeron, B. Kühnert, M. D’Imperio, and N. Vallée, 31–59. Berlin: de Gruyter.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783110224917Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Considers the effect of syllable and phrase boundary positions on articulatory timing.

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  • Byrd, D., S. Lee, D. Riggs, and J. Adams. 2005. Interacting effects of syllable and phrase position on consonant articulation. Journal of the Acoustic Society of America 118.6: 3860–3873.

    DOI: 10.1121/1.2130950Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Considers the influence of syllable and phrase boundary positions on the production of consonants, showing a consistent effect on movement duration.

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  • Fujimura, O. 1992. Phonology and phonetics—A syllable-based model of articulatory organization. Journal of the Acoustical Society of Japan 13:39–48.

    DOI: 10.1250/ast.13.39Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Develops an account of the syllable sensitive to the temporal coordination of gestures in the production of consonantal onset and vocalic nucleus.

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  • Krakow, R. 1999. Physiological organization of syllables: A review. Journal of Phonetics 27:23–54.

    DOI: 10.1006/jpho.1999.0089Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A survey of investigations suggesting the role of the syllable as a physiological unit, with discussion of its role in phonology as well.

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  • Sevald, C. A., G. S. Dell, and J. S. Cole. 1995. Syllable structure in speech production: Are syllables chunks or schemas? Journal of Memory and Language 34:807–820.

    DOI: 10.1006/jmla.1995.1035Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Experimental results suggest the distinctiveness of syllable structure from phonemic content, consistent with their conception as abstract schemas.

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  • Stenneken, P., R. Bastiaanse, W. Huber, and A. M. Jacobs. 2005. Syllable structure and sonority in language inventory and aphasic neologisms. Brain and Language 95.2: 280–292.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.bandl.2005.01.013Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Studies frequency distributions of syllable types in German and neologistic utterances of a jargon aphasic speaker, whose neologisms correlate with theoretically preferred syllable shapes, as dictated by sonority sequencing.

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Syllable-Related Processes

A number of phonological processes, including epenthesis, neutralization, and compensatory lengthening, have been treated as syllable based.

Epenthesis

Epenthesis is a phonological process of segment insertion. The works listed below characterize epenthesis as a phonological process governed by syllable well formedness. Selkirk 1981 proposes a theory in which epenthesis is invoked to avoid degenerate syllables. Ito 1989 proposes a theory in which epenthetic sites are selected to satisfy requirements of syllable structure. Zec 1988 presents a case of epenthesis in the environment of unsyllabified moras. Clements 1986 presents a more elaborate case of epenthesis that does not fully conform to predictable syllable structure.

  • Clements, G. N. 1986. Syllabification and epenthesis in the Barra dialect of Gaelic. In The phonological representation of suprasegmentals: Studies on African languages offered to John M. Stewart on his 60th birthday. Edited by K. Bogers, H. van der Hulst, and M. Mous, 317–336. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Foris.

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    Presents a case of vowel epenthesis in Barra Gaelic, which results in what appears to be contrastive syllabification.

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  • Ito, J. 1989. A prosodic theory of epenthesis. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 7:217–259.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF00138077Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues for a theory of epenthesis in which sites of insertion are governed by the requirements of syllable well formedness.

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  • Selkirk, E. O. 1981. Epenthesis and degenerate syllables in Cairene Arabic. In Theoretical issues in the grammar of the Semitic languages. Edited by H. Borer and J. Aoun, 111–140. Cambridge, MA: Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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    Analyzes epenthesis in Cairene Arabic as a process of filing empty nuclei with segmental material, and thus ensuring syllable well formedness.

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  • Zec, D. 1988. Bulgarian schwa epenthesis: A case for moraic structure. In Proceedings of the eighteenth meeting of the North East Linguistic Society. Edited by J. Blevins and J. Carter, 553–566. Amherst, MA: Graduate Linguistic Student Association.

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    Presents a case of schwa epenthesis in Bulgarian, which takes effect only in the environment of moraic liquids that cannot be syllabified.

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Neutralization

Neutralization is a phonological process whereby certain phonological properties, such as voicing, aspiration, or consonantal place, are lost in coda position. The general understanding of neutralization goes back to Trubetzkoy 1939 (cited under Foundational Works). Cho 1990 proposes to capture coda neutralization in terms of underspecification. Lombardi 1991 and Lombardi 1995 propose constraints that directly relate neutralization to the right edge of the syllable (that is, the coda). Kehrein and Golston 2004 proposes that the features subject to neutralization (in particular laryngeal features) are not properties of segments but of the coda subconstituency.

Compensatory Lengthening

Compensatory lengthening is a phonological process whereby the loss of a segment is “compensated” by the lengthening of another segment. De Chene and Anderson 1979 approaches compensatory lengthening as a segment-related process, whereby a lost segment is locally compensated by lengthening. Kavitskaya 2002 continues this line of work by proposing phonetic and diachronic arguments for this view. A different view is presented by Ingria 1980, which accounts for compensatory lengthening in structural terms, whereby the structural position of a lost segment is filled by lengthening an adjacent segment. Wetzels and Sezer 1985 presents further studies of compensatory lengthening, including that of Clements 1985, along these lines. Finally, another important work on compensatory lengthening is Hayes 1989 (cited under Moraic Structure).

Phonotactics with and without Syllables

While one of the crucial arguments for positing the syllable as a phonological unit was based on phonotactics (Kahn 1976, cited under Syllabic Constituency, Phonotactics, and Weight: Flat Structure), a number of recent works propose approaches to phonotactics with no reference to the syllable. Phonotactics without syllables is in fact found in SPE (Chomsky and Halle 1968), a foundational work on generative phonology. More recently it has been developed in Blevins 2003 and Steriade 1999, both claiming that issues of perceptibility in various environments is of crucial relevance for phonotactic distribution. This position is further developed in Côté 2000, which investigates perceptual constraints on consonant clustering, and Jun 2004, which analyzes coda neutralization in perceptual terms. Note, however, Gerfen’s arguments against this position (Gerfen 2001).

  • Blevins, J. 2003. The independent nature of phonotactic constraints: An alternative to syllable-based approaches. In The syllable in Optimality Theory. Edited by C. Féry and R. van de Vijver, 375–403. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511497926Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents a conception of phonotactic restrictions on consonant sequencing independent of the syllable, claiming that the governing factor is degree of perceptibility across different phonotactic contexts.

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  • Chomsky, N., and M. Halle. 1968. The sound pattern of English. New York: Harper and Row.

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    Promotes the morpheme as the domain of sequencing generalization. Minimizes the role of the syllable as a unit of phonology.

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  • Côté, H.-M. 2000. Consonant cluster phonotactics: A perceptual approach. PhD diss., Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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    Develops an alternative analysis of epenthesis and deletion phenomena based on perceptual factors rather than appeal to the syllable.

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  • Gerfen, C. 2001. A critical view of licensing by cue: Codas and obstruents in eastern Andalusian Spanish. In Segmental phonology in Optimality Theory: Constraints and representations. Edited by L. Lombardi, 183–205. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    Argues for the superiority of a traditional, syllable-based approach to obstruent licensing and neutralization over one based on licensing by cue.

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  • Jun, J. 2004. Place assimilation. In Phonetically based phonology. Edited by B. Hayes, R. Kirchner, and D. Steriade, 58–86. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511486401Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes assimilation of place of articulation in terms of perceptibility asymmetries governed by articulatory and perceptual factors.

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  • Steriade, D. 1999. Alternatives to syllable-based accounts of consonantal phonotactics. In Proceedings of LP’98: Item order in language and speech. Vol. 1. Edited by O. Fujimora, B. D. Joseph, and B. Palek, 205–245. Prague: The Karolinum.

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    Seeks to minimize the role of the syllable in phonotactic analysis and claims that word-internal “syllabification” is governed by segment patterns at the left edge of the word.

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Language-Specific Studies

Listed below are several detailed case studies devoted to exploring the complexity of syllable phonology within specific languages. These works are divided into European and non-European languages. Additional works can be found in van der Hulst and Ritter 1999, cited under Edited Collections.

European Languages

Trager and Bloch 1941, Harris and Kaye 1990, and Hammond 1997 all address syllables in English. Bethin 1992 and Rubach and Booij 1990 address the complex phonotactics of Polish. Harris 1983 analyzes syllables in Spanish, and van der Hulst 1984 addresses syllables in Dutch.

Non-European Languages

Pike and Pike 1947 is an important early work that demonstrates the relevance of syllables in the phonology of Mazatec. Two studies of Japanese syllables are included—Kubozono 1989, which provides experimental evidence for the mora as a phonological unit, and Kubozono 2003, which argues that both the mora and the syllable are relevant for Japanese prosody. Mohanan 1989 provides a detailed analysis of syllables in Malayalam. Breen and Pensalfini 1999 analyzes Arrernte as a typologically unusual case, in which VC, rather than CV, is the unmarked syllable. Parker 2001 analyzes Chamicuro and points to an unusual case of coda, rather than onset, maximization. Odden 2006 presents another argument along the lines of Topintzi 2010 (cited under Onset Weight) for the contribution of onsets to weight.

  • Breen, G., and R. Pensalfini. 1999. Arrernte: A language with no syllable onsets. Linguistic Inquiry 30:1–25.

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    Argues that the Arandic language Arrernte shows evidence of syllabifying VC.V over V.CV, counter to the claimed universal of CV syllabification.

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  • Kubozono, H. 1989. The mora and syllable structure in Japanese: Evidence from speech errors. Language and Speech 32:249–278.

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    Argues for the psychological reality of the mora, based on its role in generalizing patterns underlying speech errors in Japanese.

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  • Kubozono, H. 2003. The syllable as a unit of prosodic organization in Japanese. In The syllable in Optimality Theory. Edited by C. Féry and R. van de Vijver, 99–122. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511497926Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents a number of prosodic processes in Japanese, arguing that the syllable is an important level of prosodic organization in this language.

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  • Mohanan, T. 1989. Syllable structure in Malayalam. Linguistic Inquiry 20:589–625.

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    Argues for different syllable well-formedness conditions holding in different submodules of the Malayalam lexicon, to account for the paradox of the no-coda hypothesis claimed for this language and evidence to the contrary.

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  • Odden, D. 2006. Minimality and onsetless syllables in Zinza. Phonology 23:431–441.

    DOI: 10.1017/S095267570600100XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents data from the Bantu language Zinza showing a phenomenon of initial vowel lengthening to satisfy minimality restrictions, a previously unobserved onsetless syllable effect.

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  • Parker, S. 2001. Non-optimal onsets in Chamicuro: An inventory maximised in coda position. Phonology 18:361–386.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0952675701004122Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Presents evidence from Chamicuro suggesting the need for a revised conception of onset/coda asymmetry, allowing for placeless consonants in codas but not in onsets.

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  • Pike, K. L., and E. V. Pike. 1947. Immediate constituents of Mazatec syllables. International Journal of American Linguistics 13:78–91.

    DOI: 10.1086/463932Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Introduces the syllable as a unit of phonology, and, on the basis of Mazatec data, conceives it as a series of immediate constituents: The first division is margin versus nucleus, with further subdivision within each of these.

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LAST MODIFIED: 04/22/2013

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199772810-0084

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