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WHAT IS THE MOTIVATION FOR THE SYLLABLE IN PHONOLOGICAL THEORY? Chuck Cairns and Eric Raimy http://cunyphonologyforum.net/syllreasons.

php PREAMBLE: THIS WIKI IS AN OUTGROWTH OF THE FRIDAY DISCUSSION AT THE CUNY CONFERENCE ON THE SYLLABLE, JANUARY 17 - 19, 2008. THE PURPOSE IS TO EXPLORE THE POSSIBILITY OF A CONSENSUS AMONG PHONOLOGISTS ABOUT THE GENERALIZATIONS AND PHENOMENA THAT ARE THOUGHT TO BE WITHIN THE DOMAIN OF SYLLABLE THEORY. IT IS NEITHER TO EXPLORE ALTERNATIVE VIEWS OF THE SYLLABLE NOR TO DEBATE WHETHER OR NOT THE SYLLABLE IS A VIABLE CONSTRUCT IN PHONOLOGICAL THEORY. THIS OPERATES JUST LIKE ANY OTHER WIKI: ALL REGISTERED USERS MAY EDIT THIS DOCUMENT, AND EACH ACT OF EDITING LEAVES A THREAD THAT OTHERS MAY VIEW. YOU MAY BECOME A REGISTERED USER BY GETTING AN INVITATION TO JOIN. IF YOU DO NOT ALREADY HAVE AN INVITATION AND WISH TO RECEIVE ONE, PLEASE SEND AN EMAIL TO syllable at cunyphonologyforum dot net, WITH THE WORD INVITATION TO WIKI IN THE SUBJECT LINE. AS SOON AS ONE OF THE ADMINISTRATORS LOGS ON, YOU WILL BE SENT AN INVITATION (subject only to certain reasonable conditions, of course). Introduction. Participants at the Friday Discussion at the recent CUNY Conference on the Syllable proposed that we post a document about the reasons for the syllable in phonological theory; this is to serve as a basis for discussion, which we will conduct via this Wiki that Edmund ONeill has created for us. This part of the Friday Discussion was triggered by Paul Kiparskys challenge: Im wondering if we could agree on some core phenomena or generalizations that would be important to address that have been, at least on some syllabic theories, understood to be explained by syllable structure. So, anyone who proposes a theory of the syllable or a theory of the nonsyllable, should provide an account of those things. Those might include, for example, the well established typological generalizations, generalizations about phonotactics, about compensatory lengthening, and maybe some core facts about English, or other well known languages lets say Kahns stuff. People who introduce new ideas should take care to have a story about those. Otherwise we end up talking past each other

This brief essay is an attempt to outline the phenomena and generalizations that most contemporary theories of the syllable have traditionally been proposed to account for. It is based in part on comments drawn from the Friday Discussion, emails that colleagues have sent us since the conference, and an extremely cursory glance at the phonological literature. First, an important caveat (warning) is in order. Facts do not come prelabeled for the theories that should explain them. It might very well be that the facts referred to below as originally motivating syllable theory are better accounted for with entirely different theoretical proposals; as progress is made in our disciplines, perhaps we will witness a chipping away at the mound of evidence once thought of as solidly supporting the syllable so that we are left with essentially nothing. Another caveat, most forcefully expounded by Bill Idsardi, is that the enterprise embodied in the writing of this essay is essentially conservatizing. It is important to take this essay not as a prescriptive list of explananda. Rather, this essay is more in the spirit of taking stock of syllable theory in 2008. Syllables have been proposed as the explanans associated with a number of explananda. What are these explanans and explananda, and is the association between them valid?[1] Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel, in a recent email, suggested that we divide the discussion into three parts, as paraphrased below: 1. What is the range of grammatical/linguistic phenomena we have traditionally thought

of as requiring the syllable for an adequate description? 2. What other theoretical structures might be able to account for these grammatical

phenomena? 3. To what extent are the grammatical notions of the syllable also able to account for

behavioral phenomena that have also traditionally been described in terms of the syllable? e.g. apparently-syllable-manipulating language games, apparent syllable frequency effects, constraints on co-articulatory overlap, etc. We will in fact give scant reference in this essay to question 2, as our purpose is to provoke colleagues to suggest and debate new theoretical entities. We will, therefore, simply list some key topics from (1) and (3); we will refer to the latter as paraphonological phenomena.

PLEASE BEAR IN MIND THAT THE FOLLOWING IS A LIST OF STATEMENTS DESIGNED TO PROVOKE DISCUSSION. IT IS IN NO WAY A LIST OF DEFINITIVE CLAIMS! WE HAVE SIMPLY LISTED ONE OR TWO KEY PHENOMENA THAT AUTHORS HAVE SUGGESTED RELY CRUCIALLY ON THE SYLLABLE. CONTRIBUTERS TO THIS DISCUSSION MAY SUGGEST BETTER EXAMPLES AND/OR ANTI-SYLLABIC ANALYSES OF THESE EXAMPLES. Grammatical Phenomena. The brief survey below refers to a few examples in the literature where the syllable has been invoked to explain linguistically significant generalizations. Can the syllable be dispensed with in these and other cases without loss of descriptive or explanatory adequacy? If not, how much internal structure is required? Reduplication. Jason Haugen argued in his talk at the conference that the syllable is a delimiter for reduplication. Can a theory of the nonsyllable offer as good an account of his facts? Allomorphy. Vaux (Bert Vaux 1998. The phonology of Armenian. Oxford: Clarendon Press) argues that some dialects of Armenian choose the plural allomorph depending on whether or not the base is greater than one syllable. Phonotactics. Pat Shaw argued that the notion of the syllable is not relevant (and therefore otiose) to describing consonant clusters in Salish languages. However, Toni Borowsky (Toni Borowsky 1989 Structure preservation and the syllable coda in English Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 7:145-166.) has argued that the word internal phonotactics of English words is best explained by reference to a maximal CVX theory of syllable structure. Kenstowiczs text (chapter 6) contains several examples where the syllable is invoked to explain phonotactics. Distribution of allophones. Can Kahns (Daniel Kahn 1976 Syllable-based generalizations in English phonology. Cambridge Mass.: MIT Ph.D. dissertation. Distributed by the Indiana University Linguistics Club.) is classic can this be analyzed better or at least as well in a theory without any reference to syllable structure? Coetzees talk Allophonic cues to syllabification is also relevant to this point. Compensatory lengthening. Paul Kiparskys talk on compensatory lengthening in Finnish clearly makes reference to the syllable, as do most other references to compensatory lengthening in the phonological literature.

Assimilation. The syllable is not usually thought of as necessary to accounts of assimilation; Ranjan Sen argued that it is not necessary (and therefore otiose) in accounting for diachronic processes in Romance. Stress. The distinction between light and heavy syllables is obviously crucial for determining word stress in many languages. Epenthesis and deletion. Syllable based generalizations about A prosodic theory of epenthesis. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory. 7.217-59.) Its hard to see how these elegant generalizations can be captured in a theory that has no syllables at all. However, it isnt always clear what role the syllable plays; for example, although consonant deletion in Finnish seems teleologically motivated to ensure proper syllabification, it is not the unsyllabified consonant that deletes. E.g., in lapsi child, nom. sg., lasta child, part. sg. the first of three consonants drops, which is presumably not syllabified. Similarly, the first of two word final consonants drop: paistos pie, nom. sg., paistoksen pie, gen. sg. This phenomenon can be captured with a nonsyllabic rule that refers to the following environment: ___C{C, #}, but this was recognized as a loss of generalization more than three decades ago. A significant portion of the phonological grammar of a language. Paul Kiparsky mentioned in the Friday Discussion that Panini managed an account of Sanskrit without the syllable, as did Chomsky and Halle in SPE. It is important that any theoretical construct in phonology get beyond what Idsardi (at dinner after the Friday Discussion) referred to as helicopter linguistics, where a few small examples equivalent to pedagogical problem sets are use to justify a theoretical innovation. Paul also mentioned this problem in reference to the current state of OT. Typological generalizations. By this is meant, for example, the well known generalizations to the effect that word initial sequences seem to follow universal implicational laws. Clements (in press) has interesting comments on this. Paraphonological Phenomena. The CUNY Conference on the Syllable has many presentations concerning what we might broadly call paraphonological phenomena, by which we mean phenomena of any kind that seem to make use of phonological representations.

Kharmalov and Cote, in their poster at the CUNY Conference on the Syllable, showed that different experimental tasks yield different syllabifications, even within subjects and using the same materials. Might this reflect the fact that we syllabify phonological representations in different ways for different tasks? Not only might the phonologists syllables not be the same as the phoneticians, but in fact phoneticians might be working with different syllabifications depending on what their subjects are doing. Of course, it might also be true that syllables are different at different levels within the phonology proper. Speech production and planning. Shattuck-Hufnagel has argued, on the basis of a broad range of data, if syllable-sized units play a role in production at all, it is in terms of stored abstract motor-control plans that are retrieved in the later stages of sound-level production planning, and subsequently adjusted to fit their prosodic contexts. She reviewed evidence from a range of sources, such as speech error patterns, rhythmic timing adjustment and cross-word-boundary consonant releases. Singing. Dell has shown that singing is a wonderful example of a paraphonological phenomenon that not only makes reference to syllable, but can manipulate syllables for the sole purpose of creating a successful allignment of song and speech. Reading. Liberman and others have shown that there is reason to believe that syllables play a role in learning to read. Gnanadesikan's presentation at the Syllable Conference explored that notion more thoroughly. McGurk effect. Ali et al argue that studies of the McGurk effect throw light on the internal structure of the syllable. (By the way, Wikedia has an interesting page on the McGurk effect.) Listening to languages other than your own. Ali et al also argue that Anglophone perceptions of Arabic also reveal syllable structure. Word games. Numerous authors have justified various theories of syllable structure on ludlings.

[1]

Hempel, C.G. & Oppenheim, P. (1948). "Studies in the Logic of Explanation." Philosophy of

Science, XV, pp.135-175. The relevant pages are 152 153. (From the Wikipedia entry on explandum.)