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Syllables in writing are called syllabographs and are closely connected with the morphemic structure of words.



Sounds (phonemes) are the smallest segments into which the speech continuum is generally divided for purposes of analysis, because these units serve to differentiate words. But in connected speech sounds are not pronounced separately, by "themselves". It is practically impossible to draw articulatory boundaries between them. If we slow down the tempo of utterance and articulate the sounds distinctly we shall see that the smallest units, into which the speech continuum is divided, are syllable.

When we pronounce a syllable, the speech organs, while producing a consonant, take all the positions necessary for the following vowel, for example note the movements of the tongue and the lips in /su:n/ "soon", /lu:z/ "lose". That is why the boundaries between the consonant and the vowel are not clearly marked. On the contrary, boundaries between syllables are marked by the alternation of openings and closings in sound production and, as a result, by the alternation of increases and decreases in articulatory tension. So the smallest pronunciation (articulatory) unit is the syllable.

It has been proved experimentally that the syllable is also the smallest perceptible unit. A number of experiments, carried out by Soviet linguists L. Chistovitch, V. Kozhevnikov, Z. Dzhaparidze, show that the listener can recognize the preceding sound only after he has analysed the whole syllable. And it takes less time to identify a syllable than the isolated sounds contained in it.

The syllable can be considered as both a phonetic and a phonological unit. As a phonetic unit the syllable is defined in articulatory, auditory (perceptual) and acoustic terms with universal application for all languages .

As a phonological unit the syllable can be defined and described only with reference to the structure of one particular language. The very term "syllable" denotes particular ways in which phonemes are combined in a language. (Cf. the Greek syllabi", "something taken together", from syn, "together", and labein, "take").

Each language has its own rules of combining its phonemes into syllables. Some combinations are permissible in a language, others are not. Therefore, without any reference to morphology (to the meaning), it is possible to say that such nonsense words as "bulling", "mimsy", "slithy", "wabe", "toves" etc. from Lewis Carol's "Alice in Wonderland", are English and "kpo", "fsple"' cannot be English as far as the combinations of phonemes are concerned. And because of the specific grouping and distribution of phonemes in different languages one and the same word may, with certainty, be interpreted as bisyllabic by a speaker of one language, and as trisyllabic by a speaker of another language. For example, a German pronounces the word "Knabe" as bisyllabic, whereas an Englishman would make it trisyllabic, because the English language does not permit /kn/ as an initial sound combination.

The ancient Greak scholars noticed that the two main phonological types of sounds — vowels and consonants fulfill different functions in speech. The function of a vowel is to occupy the central position in certain combinations of sounds, whereas consonants serve as the margins of the sound combinations* (Hence the term "consonant", which means "sounding with something" — con+sonant.) In other words, vowels are always syllabic and consonants are incapable of forming syllables without vowels.

But in a number of languages some sonorous consonants, such as /n, I, r, m/, can also be syllabic because of their strong vocalic features, for instance, in Czeck — "krk" (neck) and in English "garden" /ɡɑ: —dn/, "needn't" /ni: -dnt/, "castle" /kɑ:-sl/, "lighten" /laɪ — tn/.

So, phonologically, the syllable is a structural unit, which consists of a vowel alone or of a vowel (or a syllabic sonorant) surrounded by consonants in the numbers and arrangements permitted by a given language.

The syllable can be a single word: chair /ʧeə/, a part of a word: English /ˈɪŋ - ɡlɪʃ/, a part of the grammatical form of a word: later /ˈleɪ - tə/.

Syllables in writing are called syllabographs and are closely connected with the morphemic structure of words.

Date: 2015-12-11; view: 2279

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US Army / US Embassies Jamaica Panama 1992 - 1995 | The relative sonority theory, or the prominence theory, created by the Danish phonetician O. Jespersen, considers that sounds tend to group themselves according to their sonority.
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