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

  • Rachid Ridouane (a1)

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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John Coleman (2001). The phonetics and phonology of Tashlhiyt Berber syllabic consonants. Transactions of the Philological Society 99. 2964.

François Dell & Mohamed Elmedlaoui (1985). Syllabic consonants and syllabification in Imdlawn Tashlhiyt Berber. Journal of African Languages and Linguistics 7. 105130.

François Dell & Mohamed Elmedlaoui (2002). Syllables in Tashlhiyt Berber and in Moroccan Arabic. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Masako Fujimoto , Emi Murano , Seiji Niimi & Shigeru Kiritani (2002). Differences in glottal opening pattern between Tokyo and Osaka dialect speakers: factors contributing to vowel devoicing. Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica 54. 133143.

Joseph H. Greenberg (1969). Some generalizations concerning initial and final consonant sequences. Linguistics 18. 534.

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Geoffrey S. Nathan (2004). Review of Dell & Elmedlaoui (2002). Journal of the International Phonetic Association 34. 215217.

Rachid Ridouane (2007). Gemination in Tashlhiyt Berber: an acoustic and articulatory study. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 37. 119142.

Ayako Tsuchida (2001). Japanese vowel devoicing: cases of consecutive devoicing environments. Journal of East Asian Linguistics 10. 225245.

Hirohide Yoshioka , Anders Löfqvist & Hajime Hirose (1981). Laryngeal adjustments in the production of consonant clusters and geminates in American English. JASA 70. 16151623.

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  • ISSN: 0952-6757
  • EISSN: 1469-8188
  • URL: /core/journals/phonology
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