LINGUIST List 15.889

Mon Mar 15 2004

Sum: Onsetless Syllables

Editor for this issue: Steve Moran <>


  1. Katalin Balogne Berces, Sum: Onsetless syllables

Message 1: Sum: Onsetless syllables

Date: Sat, 13 Mar 2004 08:15:35 -0500 (EST)
From: Katalin Balogne Berces <>
Subject: Sum: Onsetless syllables

Dear Linguists,

In issue (Linguist 15.289), I posted the summary of the replies I had
received to a query about onsetless syllables in languages. Besides
others, a question related to the implicational relationship between
hiatuses and vowel-initial words. To the original query, I only
received replies with examples from languages with initial onsetless
syllables but no medial hiatuses tolerated (plus there are well-known
examples where both/neither exist), so it seemed that the beginning of
the word was somehow 'more flexible' as far as onsetless syllables
go. After my summary appeared, however, I got a few more replies,
which is why I am obliged to write another summary.

Most surprisingly, Jennifer L Smith provided me with examples of
languages that have medial hiatus but no word-initial onsetless
syllables: Arapaho (Salzmann, Zden<e^>k. 1956. Arapaho I:
Phonology. International Journal of American Linguistics 22:49-56. [
<e^> y"e> with breve])

Guhang Ifugao (Newell, Leonard E. 1956. Phonology of the Guhang
Ifugao dialect. Philippine Journal of Science 85:523-539. 


Landman, Meredith. 2003. Morphological contiguity. In Angela
Carpenter, Andries Coetzee, and Paul de Lacy, eds., University of
Massachusetts Occasional Papers in Linguistics 26: Papers in
Optimality Theory II. Amherst, Mass.: GLSA, pp. 141-169.)

Hausa (Greenberg, Joseph H. 1941. Some problems in Hausa
phonology. Language 17:316-323.)

Guarani' [<i'> y"i> with acute accent] (Gregores, Emma, and Jorge
A. Suarez. 1967. A Description of Colloquial Guarani'. The Hague:

Tabukang Sangir (Maryott, Kenneth R. 1961. The phonology and
morphophonemics of Tabukang Sangir. Philippine Social Sciences and
Humanities Review 26:111-126.)

She presents an analysis of this pattern, with examples from Arapaho
and Guhang Ifugao, in her dissertation (Smith, Jennifer L. 2002.
Phonological Augmentation in Prominent Positions. PhD dissertation,
University of Massachusetts, Amherst.)

She also refers me to:

Downing, Laura J. 1998. On the prosodic misalignment of onsetless
syllables. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 16:1-52.

All this suggests that the toleration of word-initial and
word-internal occurrences of onsetless syllables is regulated by two
separate parameters, and that's why all four logical possibilities
exist, although the type in which vowel-initial words are allowed but
no medial onsetless syllables are tolerated seems to be more
common. (This pattern is also exemplified by Mongolian, as Jan-Olof
Svantesson writes.)

A related issue is what happens before vowel-initial words in
connected speech. While segmenting sentences by a speaker of Spanish,
Gina Cook found that there is often ''creakyness'' (glottalization)
between vowel final and vowel initial words.

I thank all who have replied for their comments and suggestions. I'm
still looking for examples of connected speech phenomena, especially
cases where a final consonant undergoes a change when followed by a
vowel-initial word. If you come by any such examples, please let me

Thanks again,
Katalin Balogn� B�rces
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