Li8 Structure of English Syllables
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)?
Today’s topics The syllable and its components English evidence for these components English phenomena that appear to involve syllable structure
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?
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
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
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
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
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
Vowel hiatus Generally interpreted as subcase of requirement that all syllables must have an onset Glottal stop insertion Article allomorphy Glide insertion? R-insertion
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…
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.