This paper is concerned with syllable universals, especially the claim that all languages have syllables. Expanding beyond my earlier work, I take a new look at Gokana, the major counterexample to the universal syllable, and present overlooked (but ambiguous) evidence for a weight-insensitive bisyllabic trochee. After demonstrating the theory-dependent nature of absolute universals, and distinguishing between analytic vs. descriptive claims, I focus on the latter as a means of ‘normalising’ the discussion of what constitutes evidence for the syllable, both in Gokana and in general. A typological approach is argued for in which languages differ in the nature and extent of the ‘activation’ of phonological properties, with Gokana representing a language which only marginally activates the syllable, if at all. The paper ends by situating the issue within the context of recent discussions of universals and diversity (Evans & Levinson 2009), which have not dealt primarily with phonology.