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7. Syllable Structure


Subject Theoretical Linguistics » Phonology

Key-Topics grammar

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405198820.2012.00009.x


A syllable can be defined as a sound or sounds grouped around a peak of sonority or prominence. Despite its relatively late introduction as a unit of phonological organization ( Hooper 1972 ; Kahn 1976 ), the syllable has played a critical role in phonological theory. A quick review of the phonological processes of Spanish (see Chapter 6 ) reveals that most require reference to the syllable and/or syllabic constituents. Furthermore, without reference to syllabic structure, one would fail to see that apparently unrelated segmental phenomena, such as nasal assimilation (e.g.,/kanbio/[ˈkam.bio] ‘change’), nasal velarization (e.g.,/tren/[tɾeŋ]‘train’),/s/aspiration and deletion (e.g.,/dos/[doh] [do] ‘two’),/s/voicing assimilation (e.g.,/isla/[ˈiz.la] ‘island’), and obstruent deletion (e.g.,/atraktibo/[a.tɾa.ˈti.βo]), are all triggered by the inability of the coda to license specific featural specifications. The syllable is also relevant with respect to nonsegmental aspects of the phonology. For instance, stress is built upon syllables, and, consequently, many stress generalizations in Spanish, such as the three-syllable window and the branching condition ( Harris 1983 and many others after him), cannot be formulated without reference to the syllable. In addition, phonotactic restrictions hold over syllables and syllabic components: for example, the ill-formedness of hypothetical ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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