When is a Syllable not a Syllable?
Creators:Beckman, Mary E.
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Publisher:Ohio State University. Department of Linguistics
Citation:Working Papers in Linguistics, no. 44 (1994), 50-69.
This paper reviews evidence for unifying two seemingly disparate types of syllable reduction phenomena: the elision of reduced vowels in English and German, and the devocalization of high vowels in Japanese, Korean, and Montreal French. Both types of "casual speech rule" can be understood as extreme endpoints of a phonetic continuum of gestural overlap. The vowel is seemingly deleted or devoiced when the gestures of neighboring consonants encroach so completely into the space for the affected vowel that the relevant vowel gesture(s) leave no salient acoustic trace. However, in some cases in some of these languages, the reduction has been phonologically reanalyzed, so that the word loses a syllable. The paper explores the circumstances under which such reanalysis can occur.
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