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Syllables without vowels: phonetic and phonological evidence from Tashlhiyt Berber*

  • Rachid Ridouane (a1)
Abstract

It has been proposed that Tashlhiyt is a language which allows any segment, including obstruents, to be a syllable nucleus. The most striking and controversial examples taken as arguments in favour of this analysis involve series of words claimed to contain only obstruents. This claim is disputed in some recent work, where it is argued that these consonant sequences contain schwas that can be syllable nuclei. This article presents arguments showing that vowelless syllables do exist in Tashlhiyt, both at the phonetic and phonological levels. Acoustic, fibrescopic and photoelectroglottographic examination of voiceless words (e.g. [tkkststt]) provide evidence that such items lack syllabic vocalic elements. In addition, two types of phonological data, metrics and a spirantisation process, are presented to show that in this language schwa is not a segment which can be independently manipulated by phonological grammar and which can be referred to the syllable structure.

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