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Copyright Antar S.

Abdellah 2002
Phonology I
What is Phonology?
It is the study of the abstract, cognitive systems that allow us to use and understand speech.
Studying syllables
Theories of syllables

1. Sonority Theory
Sonority is the sounds relative loudness compared to
other sounds, all else ( like pitch) being equal.
Voiceless Voice voiceless voiced nasals liquids glides high low
stops stops fricatives fricatives

least sonorous

Syllables are associated with Peaks of

1 peak = 1 syllable
ex.trend1Elisa 3

most sonorous

Problems of the sonority theory;

1. cannot predict No. of syllables in Boundaries lit lice & little
2. cannot tell the Position of the syllable in a word.
3. doesnt tell how many phonemes a syllable may contain
4. cannot tell the types of phonemes that follow each other in a
language. (bland is OK , bnand No)

Internal syllable Structure Theory

To solve the problems of the sonority theory, an assumption was made that all syllables have internal structures.



-The consonant sound that comes

before the sonorant sound (vowel)
- Syllables dont need to have onsets.
- if there is an onset, it may contain 1
or 2 consonant positions. Some times
3 when begins with /s/ (spring)

- ex. Eye / buy / pry

- at follows the consonants

the sonorant sound (vowel)
- they are optional.
- maximum of 2
consonants , if not in
polysyllabic words.
Ex. Pie / eat / bent

- it is the peak of
sonority it self (vowel)
- not optional,
-may be short /i/ or long
-no more than two
ex. Bit / beat / buy

- the part that combines the nucleus and the coda.
- the nucleus and the coda function together, rather than
- it is the number of the coda and the nucleus positions together
(rhyme) that determines the well/ ill-formedness of words.
- rhyme should be no more than 3 positions : 2 vowels + 1 con
or 1 V+ 2cc

General rules
- it studies the sound sequences which may
occur in a given language.

- it tells what consonant clusters are

- where are these clusters permissible.

Some problems
- some clusters are impossible in English ( i.e fm)- why?
- because adjacent consonants must be far enough away
from each other on the sonority hierarchy.

- What constitutes far enough is language specific.

- In English the minimum sonority difference is 3.

Codas are not mirror images for the onset.

- if we reverse any good onset, it gives good coda (tree

/ cart- please/ help)
- if we reverse any good coda, it give doesnt
good onset ( hemp / pm- tank/ kn )

Copyright Antar S. Abdellah 2002

- what sequence of vowels and consonants
are permissible.

(ex. Thread)
- In Russian is 0 ! (ex. Gde where)

- Minimal sonority difference depends on position

within the syllable.

Intuitions may tell us
where a syllable
boundary is located.
(Marina, agenda,

System in English

Within words, syllable boundaries are placed so that onsets are
maximized in accordance with the Phonotactic constraints of the
language. (Maximization of Onset Principle: MOP)
{ the vowel seems to catch in the onset before it, not after it, some
times a vowel catches 2 consonants if the onset has got 2 the first of
which is less sonorant than the second a.pri.cot}

System in Japanese

- syllables within boundaries in words are dealt with by the MOP.
- A syllable may contain maximum of 5 sounds (2 onset, 3 rhyme)
- the sequence of sounds is broadly dependant on the sonority hierarchy
with language specific conditions on the minimal sonority difference.

Loan words [English & Japanese]

What happens

Japanese in English