Skip to main content
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 8
  • Cited by
    This chapter has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Grice, Martine Savino, Michelina and Roettger, Timo B. 2018. Word final schwa is driven by intonation—The case of Bari Italian. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Vol. 143, Issue. 4, p. 2474.

    2016. Pretonic Vowel Reduction in Brazilian Portuguese: Harmony and Dispersion. Journal of Portuguese Linguistics, Vol. 15, Issue. ,

    Moreton, Elliott and Pater, Joe 2012. Structure and Substance in Artificial-phonology Learning, Part I: Structure. Language and Linguistics Compass, Vol. 6, Issue. 11, p. 686.

    2011. The Handbook of Phonological Theory. p. 779.

    Szigetvári, Péter 2011. The Blackwell Companion to Phonology. p. 1.

    Perry, Conrad Wong, Richard Kwok-Shing and Matthews, Stephen 2009. Syllable Timing and Pausing: Evidence from Cantonese. Language and Speech, Vol. 52, Issue. 1, p. 29.

    Kristoffersen, Gjert 2008. Level Stress in North Germanic. Journal of Germanic Linguistics, Vol. 20, Issue. 02,

    Wilson, Colin 2006. Learning Phonology With Substantive Bias: An Experimental and Computational Study of Velar Palatalization. Cognitive Science, Vol. 30, Issue. 5, p. 945.

  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: October 2009

9 - Syllable weight



The goal of this chapter is to explore the role phonetics plays in shaping the phonology of syllable weight. Standard (moraic and skeletal slot) treatments of weight assume that weight criteria (i.e. what syllables count as ‘heavy’) may vary from language to language, but that all phonological processes within a given language will employ a uniform weight criterion. An extensive survey of weight-sensitive phonological phenomena, however, shows the opposite: weight criteria are frequently non-uniform within a given language, but particular weight criteria are characteristic of particular classes of weight-sensitive phenomena, with considerable cross-linguistic uniformity for those phenomena. This chapter focuses on weight-sensitive stress and tone. I argue that the divergent weight criteria observed in stress and tone systems largely follow from differences in the phonetic implementation of stress and tone. Phonetics also plays a role in accounting for cross-linguistic variation in weight criteria for a given process: such variation is often attributed to independent phonetic properties of these languages, which are in turn grounded in other phonological properties such as syllable structure.

Despite the importance of phonetics, however, syllable weight is not sensitive only to phonetic considerations. I will claim that languages employ weight distinctions that operate over phonologically symmetrical classes of syllables, even if this means not exploiting the phonetically most effective weight distinction(s).

Finally, I will argue that the ingredients of process-specificity of weight criteria, phonetic effectiveness, and phonological simplicity together play a crucial role in the ranking of a set of Optimality-Theoretic constraints governing weight-sensitive phenomena. The divergent phonetic motivations behind different weight-sensitive processes are reflected in process-specific sets of constraints.

Recommend this book

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

Phonetically Based Phonology
  • Online ISBN: 9780511486401
  • Book DOI:
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to *