Syllable Structure: The Limits of Variation

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Overview

This book looks at the range of possible syllables in human languages. The syllable is a central notion in phonology but basic questions about it remain poorly understood and phonologists are divided on even the most elementary issues. For example, the word city has been syllabified as ci-ty (the 'maximal onset' analysis), cit-y (the 'no-open-lax-V' analysis), and cit-ty (the 'geminate C' analysis).

San Duanmu explores and clarifies these and many other related issues through an in-depth analysis of entire lexicons of several languages. Some languages, such as Standard and Shanghai Chinese, have fairly simple syllables, yet a minimal difference in syllable structure has lead to a dramatic difference in tonal behavior. Other languages, such as English, German, and Jiarong, have long consonant clusters and have been thought to require very large syllables: San Duanmu shows that the actual syllable structure in these languages is much simpler. He bases his analyses on quantitative data, paying equal attention to generalizations that are likely to be universal. He shows that a successful analysis of the syllable must take into account several theories, including feature theory, the Weight-Stress Principle, the size of morpheme inventory, and the metrical representation of the syllable.

San Duanmu's clear exposition will appeal to phonologists and advanced students and will provide a new benchmark in syllabic and prosodic analysis. He also offers an answer to the intriguing question: how different can human languages be?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199267590
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 12/15/2008
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

San Duanmu is Professor of Linguistics, University of Michigan. He received his Ph.D. in Linguistics from MIT in 1990 and has held teaching posts at Fudan University, Shanghai (1981-86) and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (1991-present). He is the author of The Phonology of Standard Chinese (2nd edition 2007, Oxford).

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Features, Sounds, Complex Sounds, and the No Contour Principle
3. Theories of Syllable Structure
4. Syllable Structure in Chinese
5. Standard Chinese
6. Shanghai
7. Syllable and Tone
8. English I: The Maximal Syllable Size
9. English II: Syllable-internal Constraints
10. German
11. Jiarong (rGalrong)
12. Theoretical Implications
References
Index

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