Adam I. Cooper and Draga Zec

in Linguistics

ISBN: 9780199772810
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:

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  • Linguistics
  • Anthropological Linguistics
  • Language Families
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  • Sociolinguistics


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The syllable is a grouping of segments that typically includes a vowel preceded, and possibly followed, by consonants. The unmarked syllable type consists of a consonant vowel sequence, or CV, with the more marked types including V, CVC, VC, CCV, CCVC, CVCC, CCVCC, etc. All known languages group their segments into syllables of roughly these shapes. Crucially, while the numbers of consonants may vary, at most one vocalic element, or more generally at most one highly prominent element, may occur. Moreover, the CV syllable is present in all languages and is implied by all other syllable types. The syllable has been used as a descriptive tool in the accounts of sound patterns of individual languages. This unit goes far back, having been recognized already by the ancient Sanskrit and Greek grammarians; the word syllable can be traced back to Greek syllabē “that which is held together.” As a unit, the syllable is a purely phonological entity. The grouping of sounds that corresponds to a syllable is undefined at the levels of morphology or syntax. Clear phonetic correlates of the syllable have not yet been established, although extensive experimental work has shed light on its essential properties. The syllable is a recurrent unit, and so are sound sequences associated with it, due to this, the syllable has standardly been considered as essential for characterizing the phonotactics of segments.

Article.  11445 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Anthropological Linguistics ; Language Families ; Psycholinguistics ; Sociolinguistics

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