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Syllable and syllabification


Published on

Ahmed Qadoury Abed
Ph D Candidate
University of Baghdad,college of Arts
English Dept

Syllable and syllabification

  1. 1. 1
  2. 2.  The concept of syllable is a unit at a higher level than that of the phoneme or sound segment, yet distinct from that of the word or morpheme (Gimson,1975:51) .  A syllable is plainly a unit of sound that is larger than a single segment and usually smaller than a word, but it is not always easy to define the number of syllables in a word or to identify where one ends and the next begins (Crystal,2006:71).Friday, December 21, 2012 2
  3. 3.  Phonetically syllables “are usually described as  Phonologically, this involves consisting of a centre which the possible combinations of has little or no obstruction English phonemes (or to airflow and which phonotactics). Laver (1994: sounds comparatively loud; 114) defines the before and after that centre phonological syllable as “a (…) there will be greater complex unit made up of obstruction to airflow nuclear and marginal and/or less loud sound” elements”. Nuclear (Roach, 2000: 70). In the elements are the vowels or monosyllable (one-syllable syllabic segments; marginal word) cat /kæt/, the vowel elements are the consonants /æ/ is the “centre” at which or non-syllabic segments. In little obstruction takes the syllable paint /peɪnt/, place, whereas we have the diphthong /eɪ/ is the complete obstruction to the nuclear element, while airflow for the surrounding initial consonant /p/ and the plosives /k/ and /t/. final cluster /nt/ are marginal elements.Friday, December 21, 2012 3
  4. 4.  Attempts have been made to provide physiological, acoustic or auditory explanations and definitions of the syllable. According to the prominence theory, for example, which is based mainly on auditory judgements, the number of syllables in a word is determined by the number of peaks of prominence. In the word entertaining /ˌentəˌ teɪnɪŋ/ the peaks of prominence are represented by the vowels /e ə eɪ ɪ/. However, this theory does not help much in discussions of syllable division.Friday, December 21, 2012 4
  5. 5.  The chest pulse theory discusses the syllable in the context of muscular activities and lung movements in the process of speech. Experiments have shown that the number of chest pulses, accompanied by increase of air pressure can determine the number of syllables produced (Gimson, 1975: 56), thus allowing to associate the number of syllables with the number of chest pulses. This approach, however, cannot account for cases when two vowels occur one after the other – for example in words like being /ˌ bi:ɪŋ/ or playing /ˌ pleɪɪŋ/ the second chest pulse might be almost irrelevant and thus lead erroneously to the conclusion that such English words consist of one syllable only.Friday, December 21, 2012 5
  6. 6.  Another approach is presented by sonority theory according to which the pulses of pulmonic air stream in speech “correspond to peaks in sonority” (Collins & Meer,2008:283). The sonority of a speech sound is discussed as “its relative loudness compared to other sounds” and each syllable corresponds to a peak in the flow rate of pulmonic air. Thus nuclear elements, or syllabic segments can be described as intrinsically more sonorous than marginal, or non-syllabic elements.  Speech sounds can be ranked in terms of their intrinsic sonority according to a sonority scale. According to the sonority hierarchy sounds are organized as follows, from the least to the greatest: voiceless obstruents, voiced obstruents, nasals, liquids, glides, and vowels.Friday, December 21, 2012 6
  7. 7.  The syllable (conventionally marked as small Greek sigma: σ) has two immediate constituents (it “branches” into two elements, to put it in another way) – the Onset (O), which includes any consonants that precede the nuclear element (the vowel), and the Rhyme (R), which subsumes the nuclear element (the vowel) as well as any marginal elements (consonants) that might follow it. The Rhyme (R), in turn, further branches into Peak (P), also known as Nucleus (N), and Coda (Co). The Peak (Nucleus), as the designation suggests, represents the “nuclear” or most sonorous element in a syllable. The Coda includes all consonants that follow the Peak in a syllable. Syllable structure may be represented graphically by means of a “tree diagram” or “immediate constituent structure”. Friday, December 21, 2012 7
  8. 8.  In the case of cat /kæt/, the Onset, Peak and Coda each consists of one segment: the consonant (C) /k/ occupies the Onset, the vowel (V) /æ/ – the Peak, and the consonant /t/ is the Coda of this syllable. However, there are syllables in English where either or both marginal elements (i.e. O and/or Co) are absent – only the Peak is an obligatory element in all languages, and in English both the Onset and the Coda are optional. Onset Peak Coda sea /si:/ /s/ /i:/ Ø on /ɒn/ Ø /ɒ/ /n/ eye /aɪ/ Ø /aɪ/ ØFriday, December 21, 2012 8
  9. 9. Syllable structure is language specific (Katamba,1989:155). Parts Description Optionality Onset Initial segment of a syllable Optional Rhyme Core of a syllable, consisting of a Obligatory nucleus and coda (see below) Nucleus Central segment of a syllable Obligatory Coda Closing segment of a syllable OptionalFriday, December 21, 2012 9
  10. 10.  Some syllables are just vowels. There are monosyllables that have a much more complex structure in terms of possible consonants (C) and vowels (V) that can go together, such as [twais] twice (CCVC), [list] list (CVCC), [strikt] strict (CCCVCC), [twelfθs] twelfths (CCVCCCC) . The last example, with the maximum number of final consonants allowed in English, is morphologically complex: twelve + th + s (see Lodge,2009:117f).Friday, December 21, 2012 10
  11. 11. Many phonologists envisag BRANCHING ,HIERARCHICAL syllable structure. Katamba (1989:153f) presented a revamped version of MULTI-TIERED PHONOLOGICAL THEORY. The syllable consists of Onset, Peak and Coda each may further be branched into two C- or V- constituents respectively. Then we speak about branching or complex Onsets etc. The English syllable drowned /draʊnd/ is an example in which all three elements branch. As can be seen from the diagram, diphthongs are treated as branching Peaks – each element of the diphthong occupies a single V-slot. The case is quite similar with “long vowels”: in terms of syllable structure, they are interpreted as sequences of two identical V- elements – /i:/ is represented as V1 = [i] + V2 = [i], and /ɑ: ɔ: ɜ: u:/ are [ɑ+ɑ, ɔ+ɔ, ɜ+ɜ, u+u], respectively.Friday, December 21, 2012 11
  12. 12.  Syllables ending in a consonant, e.g. cat /kæt/, it /ɪt/, eat /i:t/, are traditionally known as closed syllables, whereas those ending in a vowel, as in sea /si:/ or eye /aɪ/, are called open. In terms of syllable structure, in closed syllables the Coda is present, i.e. we have a branching Rhyme, while open ones have non-branching Rhymes – the Coda element is absent. Syllable Onset is irrelevant to this distinction.  Recent phonological theories move to tackle this issue under syllable WEIGHT. Syllables are heavy when the rhyme is branched to contain (1) a long vowel or a diphthong, optionally followed by one or more consonants, as in tea or (2)a short vowel followed at least by one consonant ,as in ten. Light syllables are those with no branched rhymes containing a short vowel alone or a coda of no more than short consonant , as in a or pa. Light syllable are termed in phonological length as a mora whereas heavy syllables are being greater than one mora.Friday, December 21, 2012 12
  13. 13.  Syllabification or syllabication is the separation of a word into syllables, whether spoken or written. In some languages, the spoken syllables are also the basis of syllabification in writing. However, possibly due to the weak correspondence between sounds and letters in the spelling of modern English, written syllabification in English is based mostly on etymological or morphological instead of phonetic principles. For example, it is not possible to syllabify "learning" as lear--ning according to the correct syllabification of the living language.Friday, December 21, 2012 13
  14. 14.  There are still problems  Another difficulty can be seen in „extra‟ /ekstrǝ/. with phonetic description One problem is that by . Most speakers of some definitions the /s/ in English feel that „going‟ the middle , between /k/ /gǝuɪῃ/ consists of two and /t/, would be counted syllables: Roach (2000:77) as a syllable, which most states that most speakers English speakers would could decide on phonetic reject. The most grounds that the /u/ in the controversial issue relates middle is the dividing to where the two syllables point between the two are to be divided: syllables, since the  i- /e-kstrǝ/ articulation is slightly  ii- /ek-strǝ/ closer to obstructing  iii- /eks-trǝ/ airflow than the vowel next  iv- /ekst-rǝ/ to it.  v- /ekstr- ǝ/Friday, December 21, 2012 14
  15. 15.  This principle states that where two syllables are to be divided , any consonants between them should be attached to the right-hand syllable, not the left as far as possible within the restrictions governing syllable onsets and codes. This principle will reject the first and fifth options of „extra‟, leaving us with the other three ones (ii, iii, and iv). Roach (2000:78) ,under the maximum onsets rule ,chooses (ii) /ek-strǝ/. Thus, the syllable is the basic phonotactic unit following particular phonotactic rules or morpheme structure conditions (Katamba,1989:164f).Friday, December 21, 2012 15
  16. 16.  Any syllable with a vowel (except /ǝ,ɪ,u/)as its peak or nucleus is strong .If the vowel is short, then the strong syllable will always have a coda as well ,as in seat /si:t/ and in /ɪn/. Strong syllables are stressed.  A weak syllable can only have one of a very small number of possible peaks as in ‘postman’ /pǝustmǝn/. At the end of a word, we may have a weak syllable ending with a vowel (i.e., with no coda) , as in ‘better’/betǝ/, ‘happy’ /hæpɪ/ ,and ‘thank you’ /θæῃk ju/. We also find weak syllables in word-final position with a coda if the vowel is /ǝ/, as in ‘open’ /ǝupǝn/. Weak syllables are unstressed.Friday, December 21, 2012 16
  17. 17.  When one consonant stands between vowels and it is difficult to assign the consonant to one syllable or the other ,as in „better‟ /betǝ/ or „carry‟/kæri/. Roach (2000:78) states that the consonant belongs to both syllables. Phonologists used the term ambisyllabic for a consonant in this situation.Friday, December 21, 2012 17
  18. 18.  A consonant is syllabic when (l) ,(r ),or a nasal) stands as the peak of the syllable instead of the vowel. It is usual to indicate that a consonant is syllabic by means of a small vertical mark ( ̩ ), as in :  Cattle /kætḷ/  Happen /hæpṇ/ and sometimes /hæpṃ/  Broken key /brǝukŋ ki:/  Hungary /hʌŋɡŗɪ/Friday, December 21, 2012 18
  19. 19.  Morpheme boundaries such as those between the elements of a compound normally the /p/ of fee- paying to remain initial in the second syllable, so that there is no pre-fortis clipping of the /iˌ/ (compare deep). The same applies in reprint (n.) /ˌ .prɪnt/ riˌ (compare reaper /ˌ riˌp.ə/) and presuppose /ˌ priˌ.sə.ˌpəʊz/ (compare priest). There is pre-fortis clipping of the /aɪ/ in hyphen /ˌ haɪf.ən/, but not of that in high-faluting /ˌhaɪ.fə.ˌluˌt .ɪŋ/. We need the following as a condition on the main principle:  In polymorphemic words, consonants belong to the syllable appropriate to the morpheme of which they form a part. This applies only to synchronic, psychologically real morphemes.Friday, December 21, 2012 19
  20. 20.  The only cases in English where immediately adjacent syllables have equal grade are those involving weak vowels. They are governed by the principle:  Where adjacent syllables are of equal grade, consonants are (again subject to stated conditions) syllabified with the leftward syllable.  The /t/ allophones in carpeting /ˌ kɑˌp. t.ɪŋ/, ɪ covetous /ˌ kʌv.ɪt.əs/ and purity /ˌpjʊər.ət.ɪ/ make this clear. Friday, December 21, 2012 20
  21. 21.  The main syllabification principle does not operate in such a way as to lead to consonant clusters which are phonotactically ill-formed, according to the phonotactic constraints (Wells,1990:76):  Phonotactic constraints on syllable structure (as established with reference to monosyllables) are not violated.  This means, for example, that timber is syllabified as /ˌ tɪm.bə/, since /mb/ is not a possible final cluster: /b/ cannot be captured into the stressed syllable. Similarly, anger is /ˌ æŋ.gə/, at least in RP. But tender is /ˌtend.ə/, /nd/ being a permitted cluster . Notice how neatly this fits with permitted initial clusters: tumbler /ˌ tʌm.blə/, English /ˌɪŋ.glɪʃ/.Friday, December 21, 2012 21