Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

New from Oxford University Press!


Cognitive Literary Science

Edited by Michael Burke and Emily T. Troscianko

Cognitive Literary Science "Brings together researchers in cognitive-scientific fields and with literary backgrounds for a comprehensive look at cognition and literature."

New from Cambridge University Press!


Intonation and Prosodic Structure

By Caroline Féry

Intonation and Prosodic Structure "provides a state-of-the-art survey of intonation and prosodic structure."

Review of  Handbook of the Syllable

Reviewer: Christoper R. Green
Book Title: Handbook of the Syllable
Book Author: Charles E. Cairns Eric Raimy
Publisher: Brill
Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics
Writing Systems
Issue Number: 22.3827

Discuss this Review
Help on Posting
EDITORS: Charles E. Cairns and Eric Raimy
TITLE: Handbook of the Syllable
SERIES TITLE: Brill’s Handbooks in Linguistics
YEAR: 2011

Christopher R. Green, University of Maryland, Center for Advanced Study of Language


The Handbook of the Syllable contains 17 chapters written by some of the world’s
leading phonologists and psycholinguists, devoted to tackling a variety of
concerns and challenges presented by the syllable. Chapters are divided into two
sections, ‘the syllable in grammar’ and ‘the syllable in performance’. Within
these sections, the offerings span an array of topics, both theoretical and
experimental. Following an editors’ introduction, Chapters 2 through 6 are ‘the
syllable in grammar’. The remainder of the volume is devoted to ‘the syllable in
performance’ with subsections for ‘Song and Metrics’, ‘Speech Production and
Articulation’, ‘Speech Perception and Experimental Manipulation’, ‘Orthography’,
and ‘Diachrony’. Cairns and Raimy explain that the volume is meant to speak to
theoretical, empirical, and methodological concerns surrounding the syllable.
Indeed, many chapters approach these concerns by offering unique and intriguing
evidence either for or against the syllable as a viable and identifiable
prosodic constituent. The editors provide background on the construct of the
syllable, the controversy surrounding its definition as a unit, and a brief
history of research.

CHAPTER 2 - Compensatory lengthening - Paul Kiparsky

Chapter 2 discusses longstanding controversies over the representation and
analysis of compensatory lengthening (CL) in constraint-based phonological
frameworks, e.g. Classic Optimality Theory (Prince & Smolensky 1993/2004),
Optimality Theory with Candidate Chains (McCarthy 2007), among others, and
argues that the phenomenon is more successfully addressed in a Stratal
Optimality Theory (SOT) approach. Kiparsky explores four “core theoretical
issues” that arise in CL, namely its actuation, realization of resulting length,
distinctiveness of weight, and triggers. While Kiparsky admits that the
‘actuation’ problem cannot be satisfactorily addressed at present, he plants
seeds of an explanation in SOT. Similarly, Kiparsky asserts that SOT offers
insight into how weight preservation via CL serves as a means to conserve
contrast. Among his strongest claims in support of a stratal approach to CL,
Kiparsky argues that the ability of CL to create distinctiveness or contrastive
weight from predictably weighted elements is due to the fact that it acts upon
weight assigned to elements at a higher stratum. The author tackles triggering
by exploring CL that results from onset consonant loss in Samothraki Greek.
After a detailed explanation of Consonant Gradation in Finnish based upon
Bidirectional Optimization (Jäger 2000), Kiparsky discusses the link between
this process and CL in Western Finnish. A number of concepts are entertained in
support of a stratal approach, including SUPER-OPTIMALITY and an extension to
the discussion in McCarthy (2007) on the exceptional nature of moraic FAITH, or
lack thereof. Overall, Kiparsky’s chapter offers support for SOT approaches to
the difficult topic of CL.

CHAPTER 3 - On the relationship between codas and onset cluster - Stuart Davis
and Karen Baertsch

This chapter focuses upon the Split Margin Approach (SMA) to the syllable
(Baertsch 2002). This model aims to formalize the relationship found in the
world’s languages between particular syllable constituents. The authors discuss
theoretical underpinnings of the model, its ability to account for implicational
universals of syllable structure, and the support that it lends to changes in
such structures in a variety of unrelated languages, among them Campidanian
Sardinian, Bambara, and Winnebago. A key component of the SMA is its use of
complementary Margin Hierarchies whose rankings relative to FAITH are used
(alongside other relevant constraints) to account for consonants permitted in
syllable margins and in syllable contact. By employing these Margin Hierarchies
either singly or conjoined with one another, the authors offer an optimality
theoretic explanation for Kaye and Lowenstamm’s (1981) proposal that complex
onsets imply codas. Davis and Baertsch comment on languages appearing to be
maximally CCV, explaining that they are, in fact, ‘coda-friendly’ or ‘covert
CCVC’ languages, although the fleshing out of these claims is left to future
research. The remainder of the chapter explores three case studies where changes
in syllable structures are supported by the SMA. The authors show that the
tightening of constraints on permitted syllable structures in the progression
from Latin to Campidanian Sardinian resulted in [r] being the only type of
consonant allowed to occupy a singleton coda while also witnessing a parallel
omission of laterals (changed to [r]) as the second member of a branching onset.
This relationship between the coda and M2 position of a branching onset is
predicted by the SMA. An analogous situation is witnessed in the progression of
Standard Bambara to Colloquial Bambara. The authors then revisit the discussion
of epenthesis as a result of Dorsey’s Law in Winnebago.

CHAPTER 4 - The CVX theory of syllable structure - San Duanmu

This chapter promotes a new theory of syllable structure where the maximal
syllable shape of every language is CVX, thus departing from alternative
theories proposing a maximal CV syllable shape (e.g. Government Phonology) or an
‘all-in’ approach where all consonants are syllabified. Duanmu supports his
theory with various claims, e.g. that the presence of additional consonants in
word-final positions is due to morphology. Examples are drawn mainly from
English, although the author points to his earlier work for more crosslinguistic
coverage. For words with simple shapes, the CVX Theory appears to be readily
applicable, given various assumptions about timing slots, the types of sequences
that fill them, and to what extent. Among Duanmu’s stronger claims are that
word-final consonants are permitted only in languages that contain vowel-initial
suffixes (so that a word-final consonant can potentially occupy an onset
position), and sequences of sounds sharing articulatory gestures form ‘complex
sounds’. Regarding codas, the well-known word-final coronal consonants of
English are dismissed on account of their affix-like nature, while VXC sequences
are ruled out by a combination of potential-v (a final C acts as the onset of
following syllable when suffixation occurs) and anti-allomorphy (a concept
similar to paradigm uniformity). For instances where these assertions fail,
Duanmu suggests alternative syllabifications that maintain his CVX claim. Duanmu
makes an additional claim that consonant-consonant clusters at the left edge are
complex sounds, so long as their articulatory gestures can overlap. An analysis
of possible complex sounds hinges on the No Contour Principle, which places
bounds on possible co-articulations.

CHAPTER 5 - The syllable as delimitation of the base for reduplication - Jason
D. Haugen

Haugen contends that syllable-sized units must be identifiable by a grammar in
order to achieve correct patterns of reduplication in certain languages.
Background discussion on ways in which the syllable is referenced in
morphophonological processes, constructions, and theories is offered. Haugen
argues for Shaw’s (2005) Constituent Base Hypothesis by drawing upon Yidiny
data, showing that the outcome of reduplication can be limited to a defined
prosodic constituent, namely a foot. Turning to data from Hiaki and Yapese,
Haugen argues that the syllable must be a possible base for reduplication. In
Hiaki, it is illustrated that the reduplicant for a CV.CV word is a single CV,
while the reduplicant for a CVC.CV word is the CVC first syllable. Templatic
approaches to reduplication cannot predict these variable outcomes. Further
discussion of reduplication in Mayo implies that these processes rely upon
different bases that are dependent upon stress placement, although still making
reference to the syllable. Opacity in base identification is brought to the fore
in Hiaki verbs, leaving Haugen to posit that the syllable referenced in
reduplication is defined in the underlying representation, rather than on the
surface. Challenges that this presents to surface-based optimality theoretic
frameworks are briefly discussed.

CHAPTER 6 - Geminates: Heavy or Long? - Catherine O. Ringen and Robert M. Vago

The authors take up two opposing viewpoints on the structural representation of
geminates, the syllabic weight and segmental length approaches, and illustrate
the superiority of the latter wherein geminates are inherently long, rather than
inherently heavy. Argumentation is brought to bear against a syllabic weight
analysis of geminates by presenting instances where geminates are apparently
weightless. Because these geminates do not participate as expected in stress
assignment, the authors argue that no claim can be made that geminates are
underlyingly moraic. Because these structures are long but light, they claim
that geminates, instead, occupy two timing slots. Further support is drawn from
Baker’s (2008) work on Ngalakgan. Brief discussion is offered on the status of
geminates, both heavy and weightless, in initial position, with data presented
from Leti and Thurgovian Swiss illustrating that weightless geminates in this
position forego the claim of inherent weight. Ringen and Vago turn to segmental
phonology to show that geminates pattern with structures associated with two
timing units, rather than with single timing unit entities, e.g. single
consonants. Ultimately, they propose a universal representation for geminates
consisting of a single melodic unit associated with two timing units while
subsequently problematizing proposals of ‘true’ vs. ‘fake’ geminates argued for
in earlier work.

CHAPTER 7 - Singing in Tashlhiyt Berber, a language that allows vowel-less
syllables - François Dell

Dell explores the types of conflicting demands that are at play in singing
Tashlhiyt Berber, which contains vowel-less syllables. The stated challenges
arise because vowels are most often the units associated with the pitches of a
melody in singing. In essence, Dell proposes a method of aligning a textual
stream to melody couched in a framework reminiscent of autosegmental phonology.
The chapter presents Tashlhiyt Berber songs and illustrates the linguistic
manipulations that must be exercised to overlay a melody onto a language that
often has voiceless segments for syllable nuclei.

CHAPTER 8 - The role of the syllable in speech production in American English: A
fresh consideration of the evidence - Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel

This chapter considers a progression of work arguing for the role syllables play
in speech production. Shattuck-Hufnagel discusses how some evidence presented in
support of the syllable is tenuous. She introduces key arguments for the
syllable, namely (i) speakers can count syllables, (ii) syllables can be viewed
acoustically, (iii) there is a relationship between syllables and respiration,
(iv) speakers can manipulate syllable-sized units, (v) syllables play a role in
linguistic processes, (vi) certain articulatory characteristics belong to the
syllable, (vii) speakers are aware of syllable frequency, and (viii) similar
types of syllables can be produced more readily than unlike syllables. The
shortcomings of each observation are explained. The remainder of the chapter
focuses upon arguments implicating the syllable in speech errors and in the
serial ordering of units in speech production. Shattuck-Hufnagel presents
evidence calling these propositions into question and stating that for speech
errors, in particular, the role played by syllables is ambiguous. Overall, the
position taken suggests that reference to higher level prosodic constituents
better explains the tendencies and generalizations observed in the earlier

CHAPTER 9 - Do syllables exists? Psycholinguistic evidence for the retrieval of
syllabic units in speech production - Joana Cholin

Cholin’s chapter tackles a longstanding question, the status of syllables as
stored units. The author explores this within the frame of syllable frequency
effects. Background on current theories is provided and their assumptions
explained, most importantly the point at which syllables enter into production
planning and phonological encoding. Phonetic encoding and ‘online’ segment
assembly are explained to follow in suit. Cholin suggests that research on
syllables in speech errors is indicative of syllabification occurring online,
rather than from stored units. Experimental evidence is presented showing that
segmental length makes a better prime than syllable congruency. This too
implicates online syllable processing. Still other research has illustrated that
the best primes contain both congruent segments and shared syllable structure.
Other experiments have yielded frequency effects that point toward the presence
of stored syllable units, or a ‘mental syllabary’, however these effects only
hold in some languages. The question broached concerns where such units are
located. A number of studies suggest that frequency effects are seen only in
phonetic encoding, thus implicating a mental syllabary at a post-lexical
phonetic level. Thus, while phonological syllables are constructed online during
phonological encoding, access to a mental syllabary during phonetic encoding has
a role to play in articulation.

CHAPTER 10 - Phonological encoding in healthy aging: Electrophysiological
evidence - Yael Neumann, Loraine K. Obler, Hilary Gomes, and Valerie Shafer

Chapter 10 focuses upon the breakdown of phonological encoding accompanied by
aging, which has been attributed to a gap grown between the semantic/syntax
interface and the phonological grammar. The authors provide background on
experiments probing stages of lexical retrieval, namely word conceptualization
and lexical encoding, the latter of which purportedly contains a number of
sub-stages for which little research has yet been undertaken. What is known
about these stages reveals that semantic encoding precedes phonological
encoding, and metrical coding of stress and syllabification (substages of
phonological encoding) occur ‘incrementally’ and ‘in parallel’. The authors
advance this line of research via experimental evidence gathered on mean
reaction time for phonological tasks between two groups, one older and one
younger. The results illustrate a significant difference between the populations
wherein the older group had slower performance on phonological tasks. Moreover,
syllabification tasks were shown to be delayed significantly for the older group
compared to segmentation tasks.

CHAPTER 11 - The impact of experimental tasks on syllabification judgments: A
case study of Russian - Marie-Hélène Côté and Viktor Kharlamov

This chapter offers a comprehensive overview of several experimental tasks
employed in the literature to arrive at information on the ability of speakers
to identify syllables. The authors introduce each task and reveal that little
work has been done exploring correlations between the outcomes of these tasks.
To this end, the authors report on a series of experiments employing five tasks
that utilize the same stimuli. The outcomes reveal that results do not always
correlate in a significant way for all tasks. While certain pairs of tasks
correlated significantly with one another, only four of the ten pairs of tasks
did so.

CHAPTER 12 - Syllables in speech processing: Evidence from perceptual epenthesis
- Andries W. Coetzee

Coetzee approaches a longstanding issue in phonological theory, i.e. uncovering
physical and psychological evidence for prosodic units like the syllable. He
argues that syllable-size groupings are present during speech processing, even
though convincing physical evidence might not be found for them. Coetzee
revisits many arguments for the syllable discussed in earlier chapters. The
studies reported here focus on perceptual epenthesis and the evidence that it
lends to defining the level of processing at which syllables are perceived.
Coetzee explains implications emerging from speaker perceptions of either
well-formed or ill-formed parses, including those gleaned from the relationship
between perception and timing. The results are quite complex, but several
important outcomes emerge. Among these is that in the absence of a well-formed
parse, mental epenthesis occurs to repair an offending sequence before the
string is re-parsed. It is this additional step that explains slow the response
time of participants for ill-formed stimuli. Furthermore, while both well-formed
and ill-formed stimuli emerge with identical parses as a result of perceptual
epenthesis, results point toward the fact that they are phonetically encoded as
unique strings. A lengthy discussion explores implications in further detail.

CHAPTER 13 - Anglophone perceptions of Arabic syllable structure - Azra Ali,
Michael Ingleby, and David Peebles

The authors probe the role of syllable structure in speech perception by looking
at how L1 speakers of Arabic, English, and L2 speakers of Arabic perceive
incongruent speech stimuli. McGurk fusion is used to accomplish this task. The
authors discuss earlier work on English in which they employed this technique to
show that the site of incongruence (onset, nucleus, or coda) has an effect on
the likelihood of phonological fusion. Significant fusion affects were reported
for coda position. Significant effects were also noted when stimuli contained
branching syllable margins. Here, the authors expand their work to Arabic, which
is historically coda-less but contains “notational codas” due to Western
influences. The fusion task with L1 Arabic speakers vs. L1 English speakers with
Arabic stimuli shows that, for Arabic speakers, fusion rates were equivalent in
all positions. For English speakers however, the same skewed effect toward codas
was found. This suggests that speakers impose their native syllable structure on
other languages and therefore that syllable structure is part of a speaker’s
“mental phonological representation”. The experiment repeated with Arabic
students yields results similar to L1 Arabophones.

CHAPTER 14 - The role of syllable structure: The case of Russian-speaking
children with SLI - Darya Kavitskaya and Maria Babyonyshev

This chapter explores the role syllables play in the speech of individuals with
Specific Language Impairment (SLI). The authors explain that leading theories
implicate either a phonological deficit or an impaired phonological short-term
memory as contributing to difficulties experienced by children with SLI. The
authors aim to show that the phonological component of SLI is affected by
decreased phonological memory and is further challenged by complex syllable
structure. Experimental work testing two variables in Russian pseudo-words, i.e.
word length and syllable complexity for typically-developing (TD) and
SLI-afflicted children is reported. It is shown that the number of syllables
affects accurate productions for both groups and that there is a significant
difference between the performance of TD and SLI children for these tasks, with
SLI children having lower accuracy. This implicates phonological memory as a
factor in SLI. The authors report that while both groups show significant
difficulty with complex syllables, the difference between the performance of the
groups is not significant. It is clear that both phonological memory and
syllable complexity are factors in the phonological performance of children with
SLI, however not all effects are significantly different from TD children. The
chapter repudiates earlier work by Marshall et al. (2003) claiming that SLI
children have limited access to a full inventory of syllable structures. The
findings introduce a promising line of future research.

CHAPTER 15 - Syllable markedness and misperception: It’s a two-way street - Iris
Berent, Tracy Lennertz, and Paul Smolensky

The authors explore markedness restrictions at play in syllables and
specifically the relationship that exists between the physical performance of
syllables, grammar/competence, and perception. These issues are tackled by
considering syllable complexity and epenthesis as they relate to sonority
sequencing restrictions. The point of departure is that complex syllables (those
with marked sonority sequences) are perceived incorrectly and are repaired by
epenthesis. The authors approach the details behind these instances of
epenthesis in a series of experiments where they test the propensity of speakers
to repair consonant-consonant sequences by epenthesis (i.e. to report the number
of syllables in a word incorrectly) in nonce monosyllabic and disyllabic words
according to the sonority distance between the consonants. By evaluating these
marked sequences with English and Russian speaking participants, it is
illustrated that accuracy of syllable count (misperception) was affected by
linguistic experience, i.e. native syllable structure. The authors attribute
these affects to markedness and suggest that markedness results in issues in
performance. These experiments are extended to address related questions about
the perception of falling sonority onsets.

CHAPTER 16 - Syllables and syllabaries: What writing systems tell us about
syllable structure - Amalia Gnanadesikan

In this chapter, Gnanadesikan reports on information pertaining to the syllable
found in writing systems. She provides background on earlier work and points out
inherent difficulties in analyzing systems like syllabaries where scholars have
wrangled about whether syllables or smaller units like the mora are encoded.
Gnanadesikan explores these issues by focusing upon syllabaries. The author
offers evidence that Akkadian encodes syllables rather than moras given that
vowel length is ignored in the system. Shared vocalic information further
supports syllable encoding in Mayan. For Cypriot, Gnanadesikan argues that
vocalic patterns reference sonority differences between consonants, and
analogously, in Linear B, the retention or deletion of certain consonants is
also due to sonority. The exceptional behavior of [s] in margins is shown to be
captured in some syllabaries. Thus, characteristics long attributed to the
syllable are encoded in signs in these systems. For comparison, systems are
shown where the mora (e.g. Japanese Hiragana and Vai) and the rhyme (e.g.
Bopomofo Chinese) are encoded as units, rather than the syllable. It is
suggested that the “alphabetically literate” Western tradition of scholars has
contributed to the presence of the syllable being called into question in
writing systems.

CHAPTER 17 - Diachronic phonotactic developments in Latin: The work of syllable
structure of linear sequence? - Ranjan Sen

The final chapter focuses on syllable- and linear segment-based diachronic
approaches to changes in Latin consonant-consonant phonotactics, particularly
assimilation. In syllable-based approaches, Sen highlights three strategies for
assimilation. These approaches stipulate that certain segments are either
favored or disallowed in particular syllable positions. Research on linear
approaches, on the other hand, relies heavily upon perceptual cues of positions
in a sequence, wherein highly perceptible positions permit the most contrasts.
By reporting on research on assimilations in voice, place, continuance, and
nasality, Sen argues that linear approaches are superior to their syllable-based
counterparts. This argument stands firm until additional data is presented on
the behavior of obstruent-liquid sequences. It is illustrated the syllabic
affiliation of the sequence, i.e. tautosyllabic or heterosyllabic, determines
the permitted or failed voicing assimilation noted in the language. As a result,
the syllable cannot be fully discarded or ignore in analyses of assimilation. In
sum, while linear sequences can be implicated in many assimilatory processes,
the finer details of allophony must necessarily reference syllable structure.


I first provide some evaluative remarks on individual chapters, followed by
comments on the volume as a whole.
Ch. 2 - This chapter is yet another of Kiparsky’s that keeps the fielding moving
forward. Stratal optimality theoretic approaches are among those that are
pushing the envelope of what is possible in constraint-based frameworks. What
is unsettling, however, relates to discussion non-moraic triggers to CL, namely
the moraic onsets discussed in Samothraki Greek. It is surprising that Kiparsky
so immediately dismisses alternative claims by Kavitskaya as “in a sense, too
easy” and the support on the subject offered more recently by Topintzi (2006). I
assume here that the timeline did not permit the author to consult the (2010)
update to Topintzi’s research on the subject that provides more compelling
arguments and further support for her claim that onsets must be considered
moraic in certain languages, as it was not cited.

Ch. 3 - Davis & Baertsch’s chapter is a welcome next step in their emerging
research program grounded in the Baertsch’s Split Margin Approach. The strength
of this model is clear in that a number of scholars have begun to adopt it and
test its implications in a number of diverse languages.

Ch. 4 - Duanmu’s chapter is quite provocative in that it adopts a middle of the
road approach to maximal syllable shape. For those instances where his strong
assertions fail, however, Duanmu is quick to suggest alternative
syllabifications and other caveats that allow him to maintain his CVX claim. In
discussing differences between the size of word-internal syllables vs. those at
a word edge, on the topic of aspiration, Duanmu offers some tenuous assumptions,
among them that “some English speakers” mistakenly recognize a word like
asparagus as a sparrowgrass, thus suggesting a perceived word boundary before
the first CC sequence of the word. While it appears that Duanmu’s position is a
strong generalization, he admits that apparent exceptions can be found.
Furthermore, what is unsatisfying in this chapter is that Duanmu often
problematizes issues that, thus far, have not found a fully convincing
explanation in the theoretical literature, but that would challenge his claims,
choosing instead to reject them on account of inconclusive evidence.

Ch. 5 - Haugen’s data provides a clear argument in support of his position that
templatic approaches fail to account for reduplication patterns in some
languages. It is refreshing that, rather than problematizing or attacking
alternative approaches, among them Raimy’s (2000) linear-order Precedence Based
Phonology and Inkelas and Zoll’s (2005) Morphological Doubling Theory (which
makes use of co-phonologies), Haugen offers a comparison between his analysis
and these approaches in order to suggest ways in which the alternative accounts
might successfully come to accommodate the syllable as a base for reduplication.

Ch. 6 - Ringen and Vago should be praised for their clear argumentation and
precise presentation of data. Like Kiparsky, in Chapter 2, however, the authors
are quick to gloss over alternative arguments opposing their position, most
notably from Topintzi (2010), although they do not dismiss these
counterarguments outright.

Ch. 7 - For a linguist who has also been formally trained in music, this chapter
on text-to-tune alignment is perhaps the most challenging in the volume. What is
unsettling about the analysis and theory developed is not that certain
generalities of musical practice are explored from a linguistic standpoint, but
rather that the analysis puts aside the compositionality of music such that
melodies and their association with text have been developed, taught, and passed
down generationally. Dell discusses the insertion of schwa to facilitate melodic
overlay between certain consonant sequences, however again, such insertions do
not appear to be entirely unpredictable where they are inserted or why they must
be inserted. The paraphonological insertion of schwa in Berber, and namely its
metrical inertness, in comparison to that found in its French analogue, is
interesting, but again is not unexpected given that the vowel was present
historically in French but is inserted in Berber only to aid in a performable
melodic overlay.

Ch. 8 - For phonologists whose research might tend more toward the descriptive
and theoretical ends, this chapter is an eye opener. The chapter successfully
highlights a number of potential shortcomings and issues to consider when
pursuing future experimental work on the syllable as a phonological unit. It
should be read by all.

Ch. 9, 10, 12, & 15 - These chapters and their results are particularly well
explained and succinctly articulated. Their findings bridge the gap between
theoretical phonological exploration and psycholinguistics in an accessible way
and provide a clear illustration of results that will be of importance in the
design and implementation of a host of future experiments.

Ch. 11 - The results presented here have rich implications for experimental work
on the syllable. Moreover, the reported findings will undoubtedly hit home for
any researcher who has or intends to employ any of the explored tasks. This
impactful chapter will cause many to consider what effects these results might
have on their tasks and/or if the task(s) they are using in their research are
the most appropriate for the job they set out to do.

Ch. 13 - This chapter will be of interest to researchers across a number of
disciplines relating to phonology, particularly for those specializing in
optimizing second language acquisition. One can only hope that this line of
experimentation will be expanded outside of Arabic and English to test the
effects found in languages with other core syllable structure. An interesting
question that arises from this outcome concerns how those scholars utilizing the
Government Phonology framework might account for the findings in this series of

Ch. 14 - This chapter stands out as one whose results are readily applied to
more clinical endeavors and research in speech science. Furthermore, the
results are significant in that they are reported to repudiate earlier
longstanding claims on Specific Language Impairment. Thus, it is clear that the
authors have conducted cutting edge research that is actively pushing the bounds
of linguistic research by challenging and redefining scholarship on a topic that
has the potential to have an immediate impact on clinical populations and
treatment for phonologically disabled children.

Ch. 16 - This chapter is a welcome addition in that it draws upon material that
is often overshadowed or absent from the mainstream phonological literature.
The chapter rounds out the volume’s presentation of theoretical and experimental
work by considering syllables from a different type of applied perspective,
namely writing systems. The interesting material provided compels the reader to
explore Gnanadesikan’s other works on the subject and to keep an eye out for the
next installation of findings in this promising research program.

Ch. 17 - Sen’s chapter offers a refreshing new look at Latin data. What is
reported in the chapter illustrates that it may be necessary at times to combine
multiple approaches or lines of reasoning when working on some of the most
difficult topics. By doing so, one may arrive at a more cohesive analysis. This
should be a reminder and a reality check for scholars who tend to rail against
exploring data in alternative frameworks or analytical traditions.

As a whole, this volume is highly successful in many ways owing to the strong
material that it presents from a cadre of successful scholars on a wide range of
compelling and contemporary, yet challenging topics. For the most part, the
chapters in this volume speak to its being a ‘handbook’ on the syllable, in that
they provide background, explain, and take to task what can be considered key
topics of concern to linguists studying the syllable, among them compensatory
lengthening, gemination, sonority, reduplication, writing systems, language
disorders, markedness, epenthesis, and syllable representations and
identification. There were, however, some instances where chapters too fully
wrapped in theoretical argumentation were less successful and out of place.
Among the chapters, some could be said to be more approachable than others in
that they kept to a presentation of facts, explanations, and discussion at a
level suitable to scholars with a diverse range of backgrounds in phonological
and psycholinguistic theory, statistics, and experimental methods. While others
were more complex, they nonetheless offered a vast amount of valuable
information, although they required more specialized expertise in order to
interpret their findings.

Overall, the volume is suitable as a ‘go-to’ resource for information on the
syllable. As stated above, the volume appears to be skewed in the direction of
experimental work or laboratory phonology, which appears to be the reigning
trend in the field. Many of the chapters focused on experimental work, however,
were conceived and constructed in such a way that they are accessible to those
individuals who have received less training in experimental techniques and
argumentation. It is admittedly unfortunate that not even a single a chapter was
devoted to an alternative framework like Government Phonology, as this volume
would have offered an ideal opportunity for argumentation and underpinnings of
the theory to be discussed in juxtaposition to other generative,
constraint-based, and experimental approaches. I find this to be the one obvious
downfall of an otherwise superb volume on the syllable.

Baerstch, Karen. 2002. An optimality theoretic approach to the syllable: The
Split Margin Hierarchy. Ph.D. Dissertation, Indiana University.

Baker, Brett J. 2008. Word structure in Ngalakgan. Palo Alto, CA: CSLI.

Browman, Catherine P. and Louis Goldstein. 1989. Articulatory gestures as
phonological units. Phonology 6: 201-251.

Inkelas, Sharon and Cheryl Zoll. 2005. Reduplication: Doubling in morphology.
Cambridge: CUP.

Jäger, Gerhard. 2002. Some notes on the formal properties of Bidirectional
Optimality Theory. Journal of Logic, Language, and Information. 11: 427-451.

Kavitskaya, Darya. 2002. Compensatory lengthening: Phonetics, phonology,
diachrony. London: Routledge.

Kaye, Jonathan and Jean Lowenstamm. 1981. Syllable structure and markedness
theory: Theory of markedness in generative grammar. In Proceedings of the 1979
GLOW Conference, ed. by Adriana Belletti, Luciana Brandi, and Luigi Rizzi, pp.
287-315. Pisa, Italy: Scuola normale superiore di Pisa.

Marshall, Chloe, John Harris, and Heather van der Lely. 2003. The nature of
phonological representations in children with Grammatical-Specific Language
Impairment (G-SLI). In The University of Cambridge first postgraduate conference
in language research, ed. by D. Hall, T. Markopoulos, A. Salamoura, and S.
Skoufaki, pp. 511-517. Cambridge: Cambridge Institute of Language Research.

McCarthy, John J. 2007. Hidden Generalizations. London: Equinox.

Prince, Alan and Paul Smolensky. 2004. Optimality theory: Constraint interaction
in generative grammar. Oxford: Blackwell.

Raimy, Eric. 2000. The phonology and morphology of reduplication. Berlin: Mouton
de Gruyter.

Shaw, Patricia A. 2005. Non-adjacency in reduplication. in Studies on
Reduplication, ed. by Bernard Hurch, pp. 161-210. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Topintzi, Nina. 2006. A (not so) paradoxical instance of compensatory
lengthening: Samothraki Greek and theoretical implications. Journal of Greek
Linguistics. 7: 71-119.

Topintzi, Nina. 2010. Onsets: Suprasegmental and prosodic behaviour. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Christopher Green (Ph.D., Indiana University) is a Research Scientist at the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Study of Language. His work focuses on prosodic phonology, and more specifically on syllabic and moraic theory and tone in African languages, with a specialization in the Mande sub-family. Green’s research aims to highlight the descriptive and theoretical merits of exploring understudied and under-documented languages through first hand field linguistics. His dissertation, 'Prosodic phonology in Bamana (Bambara): Syllable complexity, metrical structure, and tone', explores the phonological changes apparent in an emergent variety of Bamana spoken in Bamako, Mali, and frames segmental and tonal processes underway in the language in reference to prosodic structure above th

Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9789004187405
Pages: 483
Prices: U.S. $ 241