Syllable Structure: The Limits of Variation

Paperback (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $29.02
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 35%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (5) from $29.02   
  • New (3) from $39.31   
  • Used (2) from $29.02   
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any coupons and promotions
Seller since 2007

Feedback rating:



New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.


Ships from: Avenel, NJ

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:


Condition: New
New Book. Shipped from US within 4 to 14 business days. Established seller since 2000

Ships from: Secaucus, NJ

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:


Condition: New
Brand new.

Ships from: acton, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Sort by


This book looks at the range of possible syllables in human languages. The syllable is a central notion in phonology, yet 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-y (the 'geminate C' analysis).

San Duanmu explores and clarifies these and many other related issues through an in-depth analysis of the entire lexicons of several languages. Some languages, such as Standard and Shanghai Chines, have fairly simple syllables, yet a minimal difference in syllable structure has led 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 in 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?

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199581108
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/5/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.80 (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).

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xiii

Notes on Transcription xiv

1 Introduction 1

1.1 Common terms describing syllable structure 5

1.1.1 Summary of syllable terms 9

2 Features, Sounds, Complex Sounds, and the no Contour Principle 11

2.1 What is a sound? 11

2.1.1 What is a minimal sound? 12

2.1.2 Slicing or not? 14

2.1.3 Defining the speech sound 16

2.2 Features 18

2.3 Representing affricates 21

2.4 Are features innate? 22

2.5 Sample sounds in features 23

2.6 Complex sounds and the No Contour Principle 25

2.6.1 Affricates 28

2.6.2 Palatals and consonant-approximant clusters 29

2.6.3 VNC clusters 30

2.6.4 [V?] clusters 31

2.7 Consonants vs. vowels 31

2.8 Length and diphthongs 32

2.9 Underspecification 32

2.10 Sounds vs. phonemes 33

2.11 Summary 35

3 Theories of Syllable Structure 36

3.1 Defining the syllable 36

3.2 Maximal syllable size and word-edge consonants 37

3.3 Empty elements and the CV-only analysis 38

3.4 The CVX theory 40

3.4.1 Sonority, the peak rule, and the C rule 41

3.4.2 Onset clusters: sonority analysis vs. complex-sound analysis 43

3.4.3 VVN and VNC rhymes 44

3.4.4 V:C rhymes 45

3.4.5 Morphology and word-edge consonants 46

3.4.6 Can [1p] be an onset or [p1] be a coda? 50

3.4.7 Summary 51

3.5 Syllable boundaries 52

3.5.1 Speaker intuition 52

3.5.2 The Law of Initials (LOI) and the Law of Finals (LOF) 54

3.5.3 Maximizing stressed syllables 56

3.5.4 Maximal Onset 56

3.5.5 The Weight-Stress Principle (WSP) 58

3.5.6 Aspiration, flapping, and sounds at word-medial syllable boundaries 59

3.5.7 Summary 63

3.6 The alan alternation and the linking [r] 64

3.7 Epenthetic vowels between consonants 66

3.8 Are there parameters for the maximal syllable size? 66

3.9 The "spotty-data" problem 68

3.10 Summary 69

4 Syllable Structure in Chinese 72

4.1 Syllable boundaries 72

4.2 The onset: obligatory or optional? 73

4.3 The analysis of CG 76

4.4 Structure of stressed syllables 78

4.5 Structure of unstressed syllables 80

4.6 Casual speech and vowel-less syllables 81

4.7 Final vs. non-final positions 82

4.8 CVVC syllables 82

4.8.1 VVC rhymes in Cantonese 82

4.8.2 VVC rhymes in Fuzhou 84

4.9 Summary 85

5 Standard Chinese 86

5.1 Sound inventory and tones 86

5.2 Syllable inventory 89

5.2.1 Syllable frequencies and homophone density 89

5.2.2 Phoneme frequencies 93

5.2.3 Onset and rhyme frequencies 94

5.2.4 Tonal frequencies 95

5.3 Accounting for missing syllables 96

5.4 The [&schwahook;]-suffix 103

5.5 Syllabic consonants 105

5.6 Homophone density, frequency, and syllable loss 108

5.7 Summary 111

6 Shanghai Chinese 112

6.1 Consonant inventory 114

6.2 GVX inventory 114

6.3 Analysis of the GVX inventory 116

6.4 Frequency data on syllables in Mainstream Shanghai 121

6.4.1 Syllable frequencies and homophone density 121

6.4.2 Sound frequencies 123

6.4.3 Tonal frequencies 124

6.5 Combinations between C and GVX 126

6.6 Summary 128

7 Syllable and Tone 129

7.1 Simple and complex rhymes 131

7.2 Rhyme structure and tone loss 132

7.3 Rhyme structure and tone split 137

7.4 Rhyme structure and tonal inventory 144

7.5 Summary 146

8 English I: The Maximal Syllable Size 148

8.1 Rhymes in non-final positions 149

8.2 Word-final rhymes 154

8.3 Onset clusters in word-initial positions 159

8.4 Onset clusters in non-initial positions 160

8.5 Analyzing onset clusters 165

8.5.1 Which onset clusters should be accounted for? 166

8.5.2 The sonority-based analysis 168

8.5.3 The complex-sound analysis 174

8.5.4 Summary of onset analysis 179

8.6 Summary 179

9 English II: Syllable Inventory and Related Issues 182

9.1 Sound inventory 182

9.2 Unused syllables in English 186

9.3 Accounting for unused syllables 189

9.4 Syllables in polysyllabic words 194

9.5 Morpheme inventories in English and Chinese 197

9.6 Diphthongs 199

9.7 Voicing in coda consonants, syllabification, and vowel length 202

9.8 Summary 205

10 German 207

10.1 Sound inventory 208

10.2 Rhyme size in non-final positions 209

10.3 Final rhymes 213

10.4 Initial onsets 215

10.5 Non-initial onsets 215

10.6 Analysis of onsets 216

10.7 Onset clusters listed in other studies 220

10.8 Another look at word-final clusters 221

10.9 Summary 222

11 Jiarong (rGyalrong) 224

11.1 Onset clusters in Jiarong 225

11.1.1 Previous analyses 226

11.1.2 Present analysis 228

11.1.3 Summary 230

11.2 Coda clusters 231

11.2.1 Previous analyses 231

11.2.2 Present analysis 232

11.2.3 Summary 234

11.3 A historical perspective 234

11.4 Summary 235

12 Theoretical Implications 237

12.1 The CVX theory and its predictions 237

12.2 The CVX theory and theories of grammar 239

12.2.1 Tabula rasa 239

12.2.2 Substantive and formal universals 240

12.2.3 Principles and parameters 241

12.2.4 Optimality Theory and inviolable constraints 241

12.3 Preference constraints and inventory selection 244

12.4 The Weight-Stress Principle (WSP) and the CV effect 245

12.5 What is the syllable and why is it so small? 248

12.6 What is universal grammar? 251

12.7 Syllable inventory, "holes," and "outliers" 251

12.8 Summary 254

References 257

Author Index 269

Language Index 272

Subject Index 273

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)