Minor syllable

Minor syllable is a term used primarily in the description of Mon-Khmer languages, where a word typically consists of a reduced (minor) syllable followed by a full tonic or stressed syllable. The minor syllable may be of the form /Cə/ or /CəN/, with a reduced vowel, as in colloquial Khmer, or of the form /CC/ with no vowel at all, as in Mlabri /kn̩diːŋ/ "navel" (minor syllable /kn̩/) and /br̩poːŋ/ "underneath" (minor syllable /br̩/). This iambic pattern is sometimes called sesquisyllabic (lit. 'one and a half syllables'), a term coined by the American linguist James Matisoff in 1973:86. Outside Mon-Khmer, minor syllables are found in Burmese, where in contrast to full syllables they have the form /Cə/, with no consonant clusters allowed in the syllable onset, no syllable coda, and no tone. Recent reconstructions of Proto-Tai and Old Chinese also include sesquisyllabic roots with minor syllables, as transitional forms between fully disyllabic words and the monosyllabic words found in modern Tai languages and modern Chinese.

References

  • Matisoff, James A. (1973) Tonogenesis in Southeast Asia. In: Southern California Occasional Papers in Linguistics 1. 73-95

See also


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