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Syllable weight: convergence of phonology and phonetics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 November 2002

Ellen Broselow
Affiliation:
State University of New York at Stony Brook
Su-I Chen
Affiliation:
State University of New York at Stony Brook
Marie Huffman
Affiliation:
State University of New York at Stony Brook

Abstract

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.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 1997 Cambridge University Press

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Footnotes

Authors' names are listed in alphabetical order. This work was supported in part by grant SBR-9310058 to the first author from the National Science Foundation. Portions of this work were presented at the University of Wisconsin, CUNY Graduate Center, the University of Pennsylvania and SUNY at Stony Brook, and we are grateful to those audiences for useful discussion. We also thank Abigail Cohn, John Kingston, John McCarthy, four anonymous reviewers and the editors for helpful comments, criticism and suggestions. We are particularly indebted to our subjects for their patience and to our linguistic consultants, Rita Bhandari, Supriya Chakravarty and Anil Sivakumaran, for their assistance.
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