Published online by Cambridge University Press: 19 November 2002
In some languages, syllable weight depends exclusively on vowel length, while in others, coda consonants add weight to syllables. In this paper we assume that syllable weight is reflected in moraic structure, and that weight-bearing coda consonants are the exclusive dependents of a mora, while weightless consonants share a mora with the preceding vowel. We consider whether the durations of vowels and coda consonants reflect the distinction between a segment which occupies its own mora and a segment that shares a mora. We examine three patterns of coda weight, reflected in stress assignment: in Hindi, codas always contribute to syllable weight; in Malayalam, coda consonants are always weightless; and in Levantine Arabic, coda weight is contextually determined, with word-internal codas contributing to syllable weight following a short vowel, but weightless following a long vowel. These phonological patterns translate into different moraic representations of CVC and CVVC syllables across the different languages. We examine the durations of vowels and coda consonants in CV, CVC, CVV and CVVC syllables in Hindi, Malayalam and Levantine Arabic, and find that in all three languages, segments that we represent as mora-sharing are significantly shorter than segments that we represent as occupying an independent mora. The striking differences in durational patterns across the three languages correlate with the different moraic representations proposed on the basis of phonological patterning.