LINGUIST List 19.3153

Fri Oct 17 2008

Books: Phonology/Typology/Linguistic Theories: Duanmu

Editor for this issue: Hannah Morales <>

        1.    Jennifer Clark, Syllable Structure: Duanmu

Message 1: Syllable Structure: Duanmu
Date: 16-Oct-2008
From: Jennifer Clark <>
Subject: Syllable Structure: Duanmu
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Title: Syllable Structure Subtitle: The Limits of Variation Published: 2008 Publisher: Oxford University Press

Book URL:

Author: San Duanmu Hardback: ISBN: 9780199267590 Pages: 304 Price: U.K. £ 55.00

This book looks at the range of possible syllables in human languages. Thesyllable is a central notion in phonology but basic questions about itremain poorly understood and phonologists are divided on even the mostelementary issues. For example, the word city has been syllabified as ci-ty(the 'maximal onset' analysis), cit-y (the 'no-open-lax-V' analysis), andcit-ty (the 'geminate C' analysis).

San Duanmu explores and clarifies these and many other related issuesthrough an in-depth analysis of entire lexicons of several languages. Somelanguages, such as Standard and Shanghai Chinese, have fairly simplesyllables, yet a minimal difference in syllable structure has lead to adramatic difference in tonal behavior. Other languages, such as English,German, and Jiarong, have long consonant clusters and have been thought torequire very large syllables: San Duanmu shows that the actual syllablestructure in these languages is much simpler. He bases his analyses onquantitative data, paying equal attention to generalizations that arelikely to be universal. He shows that a successful analysis of the syllablemust take into account several theories, including feature theory, theWeight-Stress Principle, the size of morpheme inventory, and the metricalrepresentation of the syllable.

San Duanmu's clear exposition will appeal to phonologists and advancedstudents and will provide a new benchmark in syllabic and prosodicanalysis. He also offers an answer to the intriguing question: howdifferent can human languages be?

Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories                             Phonology                             Typology
Written In: English (eng )

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