Li8 Structure of English


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Li8 Structure of English Syllables


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Opening questions Disperse vs disburse, misdirect vs Mr Ect What is the longest initial/final consonant sequence in English? What do English speakers do when handed sequences like kn- (typically in personal names)?


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Today’s topics The syllable and its components English evidence for these components English phenomena that appear to involve syllable structure


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Syllable structure Maybe also Appendix Some evidence for syllable components: Stemberger found in study of speech errors that more than 90% of ordering speech errors invert onset-onset, coda-coda ? Rhyme Onset Nucleus Coda l, r-del. in Coda or Rhyme?


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Syllables Most people have clear intuitions about syllable counts and divisions. sing.er : see.ker at.lan.tic : a.tro.cious Are they simply counting vowels? No: button Abkhaz mts’k’ ‘type of fly’ Syllable divisions cannot refer simply to vowels pa.per vs sing.er, distend vs distaste


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Blends Experiment 1 Question Do Onsets and Rimes exist (as suggested by e.g. brunch vs. *blunch)? Method Train subjects to combine pairs of well-formed English nonce monosyllables (such as krint and glupth) into a new monosyllable that contains parts of both. Results responses like krupth (Onset kr- of the first syllable and Rime -upth of the second) were produced far more often than any other possible combination. Conclusion The natural break within English syllables is immediately before the vowel (i.e. Onset vs. Rime). ? ? O R O R N C N C k r i n t g l u p th Experiments from Treiman 1983


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Blends Experiment 2 Hypothesis If a syllable is composed of Onset + Rime, then artificial games that keep these units intact should be easier to learn than games that break up the syllables in a different way. Method Subjects taught 2 types of word games: Blend the Onset of a nonce CCVCC syllable with the Rime of another e.g. fl-irz + gr-uns ? fl-uns Combine non-constituents (f-runs, flins, flir-s). Results Game 1 was learned with fewer errors than was Games 2. Conclusion Speakers have access to the constituents O and R. Experiments from Treiman 1983


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Some syllable-based effects English aspiration [ph]it : s[p]it dis[t]end : dis[th]aste Nickname formation Andy, *Andry English r-coloring and other coarticulation effects


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Schwa deletion opera, family… Traditional analysis: Deletion only occurs if resulting cluster could form a possible onset Why would this be so?? celery, family, sophomore, prisoner… Davidson 2002: schwa deletion only before sonorants vegetable, Salisbury, suppose, Dorothy, medicine… memory vs memorise


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Vowel hiatus Generally interpreted as subcase of requirement that all syllables must have an onset Glottal stop insertion Article allomorphy Glide insertion? R-insertion


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Intervocalic C sequences A priori, it’s not obvious how to syllabify intervocalic Cs Oft-invoked principle: Onset Maximisation Problems: stress vowel quality morpheme boundaries phonotactics ambisyllabicity merry, happy…


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References Davidson, Lisa. 2002. Weak Syllable Elision and Gestural Coordination in English. Talk presented at HUMDRUM, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, April 20-21. Fidelholtz, James. 1975. Word Frequency and Vowel Reduction in English. Robin E. Grossman, L. James San & Timothy J. Vance, eds. Papers from the 11th Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society. 200-213. Hooper, Joan. 1978. Constraints on schwa-deletion in American English. In J. Fisiak (ed.) Recent developments in historical phonology. The Hague: Mouton. 183-207.


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