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Query Details

Query Subject:   Query re syllabic consonants
Author:   Zoe Toft
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Query:   Dear all,

I am a PhD student at the school of Oriental and African Studies in London,
UK and am looking for references on languages with so called syllabic
consonants. Bell (1978) cites 85 languages with syllabic consonants but some
of his original sources have been liberally interpreted for inclusion in
this category and very few provide any sort of phonetic data (which is no
surprising given the age of many of his sources). Therefore I am trying to
update his database and would appreciate your input.
Blevins (1995:220) provides a table on the parametric variation in syllabic
segments, ranging from Kabardian, which only allows non high vowels as
syllabic segments, to Imdlawn Tashlhiyt Berber which allows all types of
segments, including fricatives and stops, to be syllabic segments. I would
like to find more examples for inclusion in her table: Do you know of
languages which allow for rhotic but not lateral or nasal sonorants as
syllabic constituents (cf Sanskrit)? Or languages which allow for fricative
syllabic consonants, but not stops (cf Dakelh/Carrier)?. I would be
particularly interested to hear of a language where voicing plays a role in
the potential of a segment to be syllabic: if we accept a general version of
the sonority hierarchy (e.g. Katamba 1989:104), voiced segments are more
sonorant than voiceless ones and thus one could conceive of a language
which, for example, allows voiced fricative syllabic stops but not voiceless

Please send suggestions and references to me at:


If there is interest I will post a summary on the list.

Many thanks,

Zoe Tof

Bell, A. (1978) Syllabic consonants. In Greenberg, J. (Ed.) Universals of
Human Language. pp 153-201
Blevins, J. (1995) The Syllable in Phonological Theory. In Goldsmith, J. The
Handbook of Phonological Theory. pp 206-244
Katamba, F. (1989) An Introduction to Phonology.

LL Issue: 12.1714
Date posted: 03-Jul-2001


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