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A couple of weeks back I posted a query on Linguist regarding syllabic consonants. Below I summarize the responses I received and the original request. Let me here thank all those who contacted me with suggestions and expressions of interest.
My original request went as follows:
<(which is not 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 ones. Please send suggestions and references to me at: email@example.com>>
James Fidelholtz suggested I consider interjections in English such as 'pst', 'bzz', 'humph' /[Mm] when considering any difference in voicing with respect to syllabic consonants
John Frampton pointed me towards a paper of his called ''SPE Extensions'' which can be found at http://www.math.neu.edu/ling/ .
Yuri Kleiner remarked that ' practically any consonant can become syllabic in a less sonorant environment, e.g. /s/ in German PST! This has been known, at least, since Otto Jespersen. Even here, however, we ought to discern between the true syllabic consonants as in Czech BRNO (dissyllabic, stressed on the FIRST SYLLABLE) and cases like English (a) BOTTLE (syllabic l varying with schwa + l; likewise in German), (b) CODDLE and (c) TUMBLE (syllabicity retained in CODDLING and lost in TUMBLING; cf. Russian where the behaviour
of the syllabic consonant in words like P'OTR - P'ETRA is similar to TUMBLE - TUMBLING, rather than CODDLE - CODDLING). As we can see, [+/- syylabicity] of the consonant, besides its phonetic chrarctristics (probably more or less universal) depends on the structure of the syllable, which is invariably language specific. Therefore any typology that does not take this into account is doomed to be misleading,' and referred me to an article of his:
''The Privileged Position a Quarter Century Later.'' In: Kurt Gustav Goblirsch, Martha Berryman Mayou, and Marvin Taylor (eds.), Germanic Studies in Honor of Anatoly Libermans^1.s^0 North-Western European Language Evolution (NOWELE) 31-32. Odense: Odense University Press, 1997. Pp. 157-73. >>
Max Wheeler suggested John Coleman's article 'The phonetics and phonology of Tashlhiyt Berber syllabic consonants', Transactions of the Philological Society 99.1, 2001, 29-64, where Coleman argues against the claim that Tashlhiyt has many syllabic consonants.
Daniel Recasens told me that Majorcan Catalan (a dialect of Catalan spoken in the Balearic islands) has syllabic r and l word finally and that these consonants may be preceded by a stop or the fricative /f/. (Illustrative examples would be entr 'I go in', dobl 'I double'..) He has carried out some experimental work in order to find out about the voicing and syllabic status of these consonants using electropalatography and acoustics and has a paper on the subject.
Willem Visser pointed me towards a chapter on syllabic consonants in Frisian in his doctoral thesis 'The Syllable in Frisian (HIL Dissertations; 30), Holland Academic Graphics, The Hague, 1997, ISBN: 90-5569-030-9.'Johannes Reese pointed me towards German and related languages like Low Saxon, Dutch, German dialects, Danish where nasals and laterals occur as syllable nuclei in reduced syllables. 'There are numerous examples of
fricatives which break the sonority hierarchy, but are nevertheless included into the syllable, as in Stein [StaIn] `stone' or ''Herbsts'' [hE5psts] `of the autumn'.'
Christopher Miller wrote 'Serb/Croat is such a language: whereas Czech allows both syllabic /r/ and
(e.g. trh '(market) square' and vlk ''wolf'', Serb/Croat only allows syllabic /r/, cf. trg '(market) square' but vuk instead of etymological vlk. (I give only a single example for each but the correspondences are quite regular across the two languages.) Neither language allows syllabic nasals. Mandarin Chinese may be another example, cf. the final retroflex -(e)r suffix and the retroflex realisation of
orthographic after (Pinyin) orthographic ch, zh, sh and r; it would also be worthwhile to consult relevant sources about the curious semifricative realisation of the same phoneme after c, z, and s.'
Alex Monaghan thought that Czech sounded as if it allowed voiced fricatives to be syllabic (but not voiceless ones, and not stops). However, to the best of my knowledge,descriptions of Czech restrict the set of syllabic consonants to
, /r/ and marginally /m/.
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