17.1 Phonetic & Phonological Analysis: Can you breakdown the structure of a syllable?

Chapter 17

17.1 Breakdown the structure of the syllable

The syllable

 The structure of the syllable

A syllable is defined as a minimal pulse of initiatory activity bounded by a momentary

retardation of the initiator.

 The phonological shape of the syllable

  • Syllable
  • Rhyme Onset
  • Coda Nucleus

Open and closed syllables

Open – no termination i.e. no coda.

Closed – terminated by coda.

 Complex and simple

Complex – more than one consonants sound in the onset or in the coda

Simple when the onset or coda has only one sound.

 Syllable structure types

Based on the onset and coda

  1. V only = zero onset
  2. CV – onset
  3. VC – termination
  4. CVC – onset – termination

Restrictions of sounds that can occupy any of these syllable parts. – using rules or

phonotactics e.g. in English SPtk for the maximum number in the initial position r/l

The phonetic and phonological syllable

The syllable as a unit is posited at both the phonetic and phonological levels of analysis.

a) Phonetically – the syllable is a construct that is useful in explaining a number of co- ordinatory relations between segments e.g. the combinatory allophones.

b) Phonologically- the syllable acts as the domain of linguistically relevant prosodic properties such as pitch and stress. It gives the basis for organizing and expressing constraints on possible phoneme sequences e.g. the phonotatic rules.


The phonetic syllable is therefore, a framing concept. It makes it possible for one to show

a variety of co-ordinatory relationships with the contexts in which they are embedded.

These relationships involve phenomena in the control of speech production such as

articulation and phonation e.g. the devoicing process /r/ – pray – [ŗ]

This is a co-ordinatory relationship that involves the *** of voicing relative to that of

articulatory events. It reflects the interplay between – contextual factors and – options of

phonetic control. The devoicing process is an instance of inter- segmental co-ordination.

The phonological syllable is a complex unit, made up of a – nuclear elements and –

marginal elements.

Nuclear elements, as phonological entities, are called vowels. The marginal elements are

called consonants. Phonetic segments that manifest nuclear elements of the phonological

syllable are called syllabic segments. Those that manifest marginal elements of the

phonological syllable are called syllabic segments. Those that manifest marginal

elements of the phonological syllable are called non-syllabic segments e.g. stops,

fricatives, lateral resonant. /k/ and /t/ in [kat] are non-syllabic. But /n/ in garden [gadņ] is

syllabic or /l/ in cattle [katļ]



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