Syllabification of consonant clusters after vowel deletion

Dear colleagues,

Jason Shaw (Yale) and I are interested in how languages syllabify the consonant clusters after V1 is deleted in C1V1C2V2 configuration, especially word-initially. There are two strategies:

(1) resyllabification

C1V1.C2V2 => C1C2V2

(2) C1 keeps its syllabicity

C1V1.C2V2 => C1.C2V2

Our Facebook-based search, to our surprise, showed that there are more studies that argue for (2) than (1). For example, in English the word initial schwa in “support” can delete, yielding [s.phort]. We suspect that [s] is not resyllabified because the following [p] is aspirated (Kaisse and Shaw 1985). Similar arguments have been made for French (Rilland 1986), Lushootseed (Urbancyzk 1996) and Trique (DiCarnio p.c.). The only example of resyllabification (1), which seems more “intuitive” to us, found so far is Latvian.

Any papers relevant to this issue are welcome. Any intuition-based data are welcome too, if you speak/study a language with vowel deletion.

Of course, in the languages that have been claimed to have the pattern in (2), there are arguments that vowels are not completed deleted—they can be either (heavily) reduced or devoiced. That sort of counterargument is welcome as well. Evidence for syllabification may be hard to come by in some languages, and people may just assume (1) or (2). That is fine and we would like to know those languages, although more explicit evidence would be welcome; we are interested in what kind of evidence has been used for syllabification in this sort of situation.

All the best,

Shigeto Kawahara (Keio University)

Posted in Discussion topic
2 comments on “Syllabification of consonant clusters after vowel deletion
  1. Mary Beckman says:

    You probably have the Jun et al. (1998) paper on “Fiberscopic evidence for the influence on vowel devoicing of the glottal configurations for Korean obstruents” already in your list of examples? If not, Korean is like Kansai Japanese in being definitely (2).

    You also might want to look at Becky Butler’s acoustic studies of sesquisyllables in description of Khmer versus Bunong versus (standard) Burmese (cf. James Kirby’s review of the dissertation at, and then follow up on by talking to other people who may have data on sesquisyllables in other languages in the SE Asian Sprachbund, such as Keita Kurabe who has worked a lot varieties of Jingpho.

    • Shigeto Kawahara says:

      Thanks so much, Mary!! We have not look at any of these yet. It is interesting that there are so many (alleged) cases of (2), and not so many cases of (1), while (1) seems more natural in terms of “syllable markedness”

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