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A representational parameter for onsetless syllables1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 January 2013

Adam Mickiewicz University
Author's address: Faculty of English, Adam Mickiewicz University, al. Niepodległości 4, 61-874 Poznań,


Syllables without consonantal onsets may be invisible for stress-assignment, reduplication, or tone. Many authors attribute this behavior to some sort of prosodic deficiency, while having little to say about cases in which onsetless syllables act as well-formed constituents. In the Onset Prominence (OP) representational environment, the ambiguous behavior of onsetless syllables is explained by means of a single representational parameter. Prosodically active initial vowels are assumed to be specified for the Vocalic Onset (VO) layer of structure, a specification lacking in prosodically inert onsetless syllables. Diverse phonological implications of VO specification for KiKerewe, Eastern Arrernte, Tashlhiyt Berber and Polish are examined. In the case of Polish, phonetic data on the glottalization of initial vowels provide additional support for the representational proposal. Finally, the place of the OP environment within the context of modern phonological theory is discussed.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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I would like to thank Cormac Anderson for bringing to my attention much of the data discussed in this paper. Thanks also go to Jennifer L. Smith for the intense grilling of my poster presentation on onsetless syllables at the 20th Manchester Phonology Meeting (2012). I would also like to thank two anonymous Journal of Linguistics referees as well the editors. This paper builds on an analysis developed in Schwartz (2012a). All errors are my own responsibility.



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