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Syllabification of American English. David Eddington (BYU) Dirk Elzinga (BYU) Rebecca Treiman (WU) Mark Davies (BYU) Brigham Young University and Washington University. We are NOT interested in:. Devising prescriptive rules of syllabification How clever linguists syllabify words

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syllabification of american english

Syllabification of American English

David Eddington (BYU)

Dirk Elzinga (BYU)

Rebecca Treiman (WU)

Mark Davies (BYU)

Brigham Young University and Washington University

we are not interested in
We are NOT interested in:
  • Devising prescriptive rules of syllabification
  • How clever linguists syllabify words
  • Syllabification of the written word
we are interested in
We ARE interested in:
  • Describing how actual speakers syllabify
  • Syllabification based on sounds not spelling
don t we know how english is syllabified already
Don’t we know how English is syllabified already?
  • Dictionaries often disagree in their phonetic transcription (e.g. silly, hollow, balance)
    • Merriam Webster si . lly

ho . llow

ba . lance

    • Cambridge sill . y

ho . llow or holl . ow

bal . ance

previous empirical studies
Previous empirical studies
  • (Derwing 1992; Derwing and Neary 1991; Fallows 1981; Treiman, Bowey, and Bourassa 2002; Treiman and Danis 1988; Treiman, Gross, and Cwikiel-Glavin 1992; Treiman, Staub, and Lavery 1994; Treiman and Zukowski 1990; Zamuner and Ohala 1999)
  • Focused principally on bisyllabic words with one medial consonant (e.g. lemon)
  • Considered mainly monomorphemic words such as about not polymorphemic words such as lightly (light + ly)
  • Used only 20-40 test words
findings of previous studies
Findings of previous studies
  • Stress attracts the medial consonant
    • lémon > lém . on
    • attáck > a . ttáck
findings of previous studies7
Findings of previous studies
  • Initial lax vowels attract the consonant to the coda of the first syllable
    • letter > lett . er
  • Initial tense vowels repel the consonant into the onset of the second syllable
    • laser > la . ser
findings of previous studies8
Findings of previous studies

Sonorants are attracted to the coda of the first syllable

  • silly > sill . y
findings of previous studies9
Findings of previous studies

Sonorants are attracted to the coda of the first syllable

  • silly > sill . y

Obstruents are pushed into the onset of the second syllable

  • aghast > a . ghast
problem
Problem
  • Vowel quality, stress, and medial consonants interact with each other and must be considered together
  • Other factors may influence as well
our innovations
Our innovations
  • We considered:
    • Words with 1-4 medial consonants
    • Both monomorphemic and polymorphemic words
    • The syllabification of many words
    • Legality of consonants word initially and finally
    • Types of morpheme boundaries
byu syllabification survey
BYU Syllabification Survey
  • 5,000 bisyllabic test items
  • 841 participants
  • average of 22 responses per test word
  • survey completed online
  • choices based on sounds not spelling
byu syllabification survey13
BYU Syllabification Survey
  • Choose the syllabification of ‘victim’ that sounds best to you
    • VI / KTUHM
    • VIK / TUHM
    • VIKT / UHM
    • I’m not sure
byu syllabification survey14
BYU syllabification survey

Factors we considered:

  • Vowel quality (tense or lax)
  • Medial consonant quality (nasal, liquid, obstruent, etc.)
  • Morphological boundaries
    • Compound word (sheepdog)
    • Transparent (actor)
    • Opaque (fifteen)
  • Stress placement
  • Legality of consonants word initially and finally
byu syllabification survey15
BYU syllabification survey
  • This is a work in progress
    • We may consider other factors
    • Statistical analysis still underway (interactions)
interpreting results
Interpreting Results

C O N S T A N T

V1 C1 C2 C3 V2

interpreting results17
Interpreting Results
  • Multiple regression performed
  • Only p < .05 results discussed
  • I’ll avoid numbers and focus on interpretation of them instead
results for vcv words
Results for VCV Words
  • 60% of the variance is accounted for
  • Factors that favor V . CV
    • C is licit word initially (/b/ versus /Ŋ/
    • V1 is tense (able)
    • C is an obstruent (placard)
    • A transparent or compound morpheme boundary precedes the consonant (tC, cC; rebirth, lawsuit)
      • Transparent >> compound
results for vcv words19
Results for VCV Words
  • Factors that disfavor V . CV
    • The word is written with a geminate consonant
    • The consonant is /r/, /l/, or a nasal
    • A transparent, compound, or opaque morpheme boundary follows the consonant (Ct, Cc, Co)
      • Compound >> transparent >> opaque
      • (getup, noisy, shadow)
results for vcv words20
Results for VCV Words
  • 60% of the variance is accounted for
  • Factors that favor VC . V
    • The word contains a geminate consonant
    • C1 is /l/, /r/, or a nasal
    • A compound, transparent, or opaque morpheme boundary follows the consonant (Cc, Ct, Co)
      • Compound >> transparent >> opaque
      • (getup, noisy, shadow)
results for vcv words21
Results for VCV Words
  • Factors that disfavor VC . V
    • V1 is tense
    • A transparent or compound morpheme boundary precedes the consonant (tC, cC)
      • Transparent >> compound
      • (prewar, seashore)
interactions monomorphemic
Interactions(monomorphemic)

Final Stress Initial Stress

V.CV VC.V ? Example V.CV VC.V ? Example

Lax86 13 1 buffoon 62 37 1 govern

Tense90 8 2 erect86 13 1 private

results for vccv words
Results for VCCV Words
  • 75% of variance accounted for
  • Factors that favor V . CCV syllabification
    • CC is licit word initially (br- versus *dl-)
    • C2 is /r/, /l/ or a glide
    • V1 is tense (council)
    • Any kind of morpheme boundary precedes CC (+CC)
      • Compound >> transparent >> opaque
      • (seaplane, biplane, supplant)
results for vccv words24
Results for VCCV Words
  • Factors that disfavor V . CCV syllabification
    • CC is licit word finally
    • C1 is /r/, /l/, or nasal
    • Any kind of morpheme boundary appears between CC (C+C)
      • Transparent >> compound >> opaque
      • (subjoin, bloodshed, fifteen)
    • A compound boundary appears after CC (CCc)
results for vccv words25
Results for VCCV Words
  • 69% of variance accounted for
  • Factors that favor VC . CV syllabification
    • C1 is /r/, /l/, or nasal
    • Any kind of morpheme boundary separates the CC (C+C)
      • Compound >> transparent >> opaque
      • (subjoin, bloodshed, fifteen)
results for vccv words26
Results for VCCV Words
  • Factors that disfavor VC . CV syllabification
    • CC is licit word initially
    • C2 is /r/, /l/, or a glide
    • Any kind of morpheme boundary falls before CC (+CC)
      • Transparent >> compound >> opaque
    • A compound or transparent morpheme boundary falls after CC (CCc, CCo)
      • Compound >> transparent
results for vccv words27
Results for VCCV Words
  • 34% of variance accounted for
  • Factors that favor VCC . V syllabification
    • CC is licit word finally
    • A compound or transparent morpheme boundary follows CC (CCc, CCt)
      • Compound >> transparent
      • (handout, actor)
results for vccv words28
Results for VCCV Words
  • Factors that disfavor VCC . V syllabification
    • CC is licit word initially
    • C1 is /r/
    • A transparent or compound boundary separates CC (CtC, CcC)
      • Compound >> transparent
      • (prewar, myself)
interactions monomorphemic29
Interactions(monomorphemic)

Final Stress

V.CCV VC.CV V.CCV ? Example

Lax

Licit Onset Clusters 76 22 2 0 afflict

Illicit Onset Clusters 3 94 3 0 vaccine

Tense

Licit Onset Clusters 76 17 3 5 digress

Illicit Onset Clusters 8 86 5 2 maintain

Initial Stress

V.CCV VC.CV V.CCV ? Example

Lax

Licit Onset Clusters 34 60 5 1 saffron

Illicit Onset Clusters 4 89 7 1 after

Tense

Licit Onset Clusters 74 23 1 1 program

Illicit Onset Clusters 10 84 5 1 flounder

Largest percentage in each category appears in boldface.

syllabification by cluster
Syllabification by cluster
  • Several ways to determine permissibility of CCC
    • Are all three consonants licit word initially?
      • str- is licit given strange
      • rtr- is illicit *rtrange
    • Are all three consonants licit word finally?
      • -nst is licit given rinsed
      • -lnm is illicit *talnm
    • Are the final two consonants licit word initially?
      • nfl- is licit given fling
      • rtl- is illicit *tling
    • Are the first two consonants licit word finally?
      • -rkr is licit given work
      • -bst is illicit *rabs [bs]
results for vcccv words
Results for VCCCV Words
  • 70% of variance accounted for
  • Factors that favor V . CCCV
    • CCC is licit word initially (astray)
    • V1 is tense (cambric)
    • A compound or transparent boundary precedes CCC (cCCC, tCCC)
      • Compound >> transparent
      • (drawstring, rescript)
results for vcccv words32
Results for VCCCV Words
  • Factors that disfavor V . CCCV
    • The first two consonants of CCC are licit word finally
      • (margrave, masthead)
    • There is a transparent boundary (CtCC; nonstop)
results of vcccv words
Results of VCCCV Words
  • 77% of the variance accounted for
  • Factors that favor VC . CCV
    • The last two consonants of CCC are licit word initially
      • (coxcomb, contract)
    • A compound or transparent boundary occurs CcCC or CtCC
      • Compound >> transparent
      • (outgrow, nonstop)
results of vcccv words34
Results of VCCCV Words
  • Factors that disfavor VC . CCV
    • CCC is licit word initially or finally
      • (bowstring, curtsey)
    • The first two consonants are licit word finally
      • (talesman)
    • The following morpheme boundaries
      • cCCC, tCCC, CCcC, CCtC, CCCc
results of vcccv words35
Results of VCCCV Words
  • 81% of variance accounted for
  • Factors that favor VCC . CV
    • The first two consonants are licit word finally
      • (darksome, sixty, empty, sanctum)
    • The following morpheme boundaries exist:
      • CCcC, CCtC, CCoC, and CCCc (??)
      • (porthole, endless, children, huntsman [hʌnsmʌn])
results of vcccv words36
Results of VCCCV Words
  • Factors that disfavor VCC . CV
    • CCC is licit word initially
    • Final two consonants are licit word initially
    • The following morpheme boundaries:
      • CcCC, CtCC, CCCo
      • (outgrow, nonstop, centrist)
results of vcccv words37
Results of VCCCV Words
  • 17% of variance accounted for
  • Factors that favor VCCC . V
    • CCC is licit word finally (monster)
    • CCCo morpheme boundary (centrist)
results of vcccv words38
Results of VCCCV Words
  • Factors that disfavor VCCC . V
    • tCCC, CcCC, CCcC morpheme boundaries
      • (rescript, outgrow, porthole)
syllabification by cluster39
Syllabification by cluster
  • Responses tend to break up illicit clusters
    • por . trait, chand . ler
  • Licit CCC, CC C, and C CC clusters following a tense vowel are kept intact
    • pro . scribe, pro . scribe, poul . try
  • Licit CCC, CC C, and C CC clusters following a lax vowel favor C.CC even if it breaks a licit cluster
    • as . tray, res . t(au)rant, pil . grim
results of vccccv words
Results of VCCCCV Words
  • 36% of the variance accounted for
  • Factors that favor V . CCCCV
    • NONE
results of vccccv words41
Results of VCCCCV Words
  • Factors that disfavor V . CCCCV
    • The first three consonants are licit word finally
results of vccccv words42
Results of VCCCCV Words
  • 79% of the variance accounted for
  • Factors that favor VC . CCCV
    • The final three consonants are licit word initially
      • (abstract)
results of vccccv words43
Results of VCCCCV Words
  • Factors that disfavor V . CCCCV
    • A CCtCC morpheme boundary
      • (transplant)
results of vccccv words44
Results of VCCCCV Words
  • 68% of the variance accounted for
  • Factors that favor VCC . CCV
    • NONE
results of vccccv words45
Results of VCCCCV Words
  • Factors that disfavor VCC . CCV
    • The final three consonants are licit word initially
      • (abstract)
    • A CCCcC morpheme boundary
      • (marksman, textbook)
results of vccccv words46
Results of VCCCCV Words
  • 83% of the variance accounted for
  • Factors that favor VCCC . CV
    • A CCCcC morpheme boundary
      • (worldwide, swordsman)
results of vccccv words47
Results of VCCCCV Words
  • Factors that disfavor VCCC . CV
    • The final two consonants are licit word initially
result of vccccv words
Result of VCCCCV Words
  • No one syllabified any word VCCCC . V
summary of results
Summary of Results
  • Syllabification was highly influenced by:
    • Morpheme boundaries
    • Legality of consonant clusters word initially and finally
    • V1 quality
    • Medial consonant quality
    • Stress
    • Interactions among these factors
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