Featured Linguist!

Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

Donate Now | Visit the Fund Drive Homepage

Amount Raised:


Still Needed:


Can anyone overtake Syntax in the Subfield Challenge ?

Grad School Challenge Leader: University of Washington

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

New from Oxford University Press!


What is English? And Why Should We Care?

By: Tim William Machan

To find some answers Tim Machan explores the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is fascinating and important, for definitions of English have influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the identities of those who live in them.

New from Cambridge University Press!


Medical Writing in Early Modern English

Edited by Irma Taavitsainen and Paivi Pahta

This volume provides a new perspective on the evolution of the special language of medicine, based on the electronic corpus of Early Modern English Medical Texts, containing over two million words of medical writing from 1500 to 1700.

Summary Details

Query:   Sum: Sum: Onsetless syllables
Author:  Katalin Balogne Berces
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Phonetics

Summary:   Dear Linguists,

In issue 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, Zdenk. 1956. Arapaho I: Phonology. International Journal of American Linguistics 22:49-56. [ = with breve])
Guhang Ifugao (Newell, Leonard E. 1956. Phonology of the Guhang Ifugao dialect. Philippine Journal of Science 85:523-539. and 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' [ = with acute accent] (Gregores, Emma, and Jorge A. Suarez. 1967. A Description of Colloquial Guarani'. The Hague: Mouton.)
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 know.

Thanks again,
Katalin Balogn? B?rces

LL Issue: 15.289
Date Posted: 13-Mar-2004
Original Query: Read original query


Sums main page