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THEORY: Origin of complex syllable structure.

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  • Leonardo Castro
    Hello! Are there any theories about the origin of complex syllable structure? Are consonant clusters analysed by anyone as having been originated from loss of
    Message 1 of 8 , Apr 2, 2013
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      Hello!

      Are there any theories about the origin of complex syllable structure?
      Are consonant clusters analysed by anyone as having been originated
      from loss of final vowels in compound words?

      In Japanese, sentences ending in "masu ka" usually sound as "maska"
      because of the weak pronunciation of the "u". I wonder if this type of
      process happened to other languages thus giving birth to consonant
      clusters. Could CV syllables be seen as the primitive ones?

      Até mais!

      Leonardo
    • George Corley
      ... That looks like a likely scenario. Word-internal vowel deletions would also lead to more complex consonant clusters. I d hesitate to say that CV is
      Message 2 of 8 , Apr 2, 2013
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        On Tue, Apr 2, 2013 at 8:39 PM, Leonardo Castro <leolucas1980@...>wrote:

        > Hello!
        >
        > Are there any theories about the origin of complex syllable structure?
        > Are consonant clusters analysed by anyone as having been originated
        > from loss of final vowels in compound words?
        >
        > In Japanese, sentences ending in "masu ka" usually sound as "maska"
        > because of the weak pronunciation of the "u". I wonder if this type of
        > process happened to other languages thus giving birth to consonant
        > clusters. Could CV syllables be seen as the primitive ones?
        >

        That looks like a likely scenario. Word-internal vowel deletions would
        also lead to more complex consonant clusters. I'd hesitate to say that CV
        is always primitive, though -- clusters can simplify to the point that
        complex syllables reduce to CV.

        Hopefully someone with more knowledge of historical linguistics can expound
        more.
      • Roger Mills
        ... That looks like a likely scenario.  Word-internal vowel deletions would also lead to more complex consonant clusters.  I d hesitate to say that CV is
        Message 3 of 8 , Apr 3, 2013
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          --- On Tue, 4/2/13, George Corley <gacorley@...> wrote:
          On Tue, Apr 2, 2013 at 8:39 PM, Leonardo Castro <leolucas1980@...>wrote:

          > Hello!
          >
          > Are there any theories about the origin of complex syllable structure?
          > Are consonant clusters analysed by anyone as having been originated
          > from loss of final vowels in compound words?
          >
          > In Japanese, sentences ending in "masu ka" usually sound as "maska"
          > because of the weak pronunciation of the "u". I wonder if this type of
          > process happened to other languages thus giving birth to consonant
          > clusters. Could CV syllables be seen as the primitive ones?
          >

          That looks like a likely scenario.  Word-internal vowel deletions would
          also lead to more complex consonant clusters.  I'd hesitate to say that CV
          is always primitive, though -- clusters can simplify to the point that
          complex syllables reduce to CV.

          Hopefully someone with more knowledge of historical linguistics can expound
          more.
          ========================================

          Yes, it does seem a likely scenario, but I suspect the basic syl.structure has to include CVC.

           Most of my knowledge of Hist.Ling. comes from reading, plus one very elementary course in grad school, plus experience. I don't recall any real discussion of the phenom, but one encounters it all the time.  Of course in IE, clusters occurred with the addition of suffixes (like *-tos, *-men etc.) to CVC roots, and often were simplified by assimilation or changes of other sorts. Also, roots in the "0 grade" of ablaut. (the 0 - e - o  thing) ended up with clusters. At one point in the history of IE research, I think some clusters were posited ab origine-- the word for 'earth' was something like *dh-gh-V-m  IIRC, which emerges in Greek as /k-th-on-os/; I think more recently it's been suggested that the form should be *dhegho- or some such.  (But this isn't my field  :-(((   )

          In Austronesian, clusters can result (historically in some languages at least) by (a) deletion of a medial schwa (e.g. *daN@si 'bird' > Phil. dangsi, ~dansi ~dasi, or (b) when CVC roots were doubled (things like *tub >  some Philippine _tubtub_  'close, cover', Malay tutup.)  Formosan AN langs tend to show a vowel in those cases. Further, (c) there are a few trisyllabic roots reconstructed, like *paNudan 'pandanus (tree)' which are not compounds nor (AFAWCT) morph. complex, where the medial V ( presumably unstressed) gets deleted almost everywhere, leading to **pandan. And finally (d) there were infixes-- -(a)r- and -(a)l- (apparently "pluralizer" and/or "frequentative"); when infixed into a C-ar-VCV(C) root, often the following V ends up being deleted depending on stress rules, leading to CV(r,l)CVC.

          Lots of langs. favor CV structure; AFAIU that was true of ancient Japanese, but with the tons of Chinese CVC loans, they dropped the final C or added a support-V; it ended up that only /n/ is allowed in final position.
        • H. S. Teoh
          ... [...] What about VC syllabic structure? Is that attested anywhere, or it is regarded merely as CVC with the first C as a glottal stop (or equivalent)? T --
          Message 4 of 8 , Apr 3, 2013
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            On Wed, Apr 03, 2013 at 09:46:07AM -0700, Roger Mills wrote:
            > --- On Tue, 4/2/13, George Corley <gacorley@...> wrote:
            > On Tue, Apr 2, 2013 at 8:39 PM, Leonardo Castro <leolucas1980@...>wrote:
            >
            > > Hello!
            > >
            > > Are there any theories about the origin of complex syllable
            > > structure? Are consonant clusters analysed by anyone as having been
            > > originated from loss of final vowels in compound words?
            > >
            > > In Japanese, sentences ending in "masu ka" usually sound as "maska"
            > > because of the weak pronunciation of the "u". I wonder if this type
            > > of process happened to other languages thus giving birth to
            > > consonant clusters. Could CV syllables be seen as the primitive
            > > ones?
            > >
            >
            > That looks like a likely scenario.  Word-internal vowel deletions
            > would also lead to more complex consonant clusters.  I'd hesitate to
            > say that CV is always primitive, though -- clusters can simplify to
            > the point that complex syllables reduce to CV.
            >
            > Hopefully someone with more knowledge of historical linguistics can
            > expound more.
            > ========================================
            >
            > Yes, it does seem a likely scenario, but I suspect the basic
            > syl.structure has to include CVC.
            [...]

            What about VC syllabic structure? Is that attested anywhere, or it is
            regarded merely as CVC with the first C as a glottal stop (or
            equivalent)?


            T

            --
            Always remember that you are unique. Just like everybody else. -- despair.com
          • Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets
            ... The Arrernte language (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aranda_language) has been argued to have a VC(C) syllabic structure. I don t know how accepted that
            Message 5 of 8 , Apr 3, 2013
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              On 3 April 2013 19:30, H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...> wrote:

              >
              > What about VC syllabic structure? Is that attested anywhere, or it is
              > regarded merely as CVC with the first C as a glottal stop (or
              > equivalent)?
              >
              >
              The Arrernte language (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aranda_language) has
              been argued to have a VC(C) syllabic structure. I don't know how accepted
              that analysis is.
              --
              Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets.

              http://christophoronomicon.blogspot.com/
              http://www.christophoronomicon.nl/
            • Alex Fink
              ... [...] ... The origin? The question sounds like it s in the grip of this unfortunate all languages must really be the same fever. Surely, there are
              Message 6 of 8 , Apr 3, 2013
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                On Tue, 2 Apr 2013 22:39:04 -0300, Leonardo Castro <leolucas1980@...> wrote:

                >Hello!
                >
                >Are there any theories about the origin of complex syllable structure?
                >Are consonant clusters analysed by anyone as having been originated
                >from loss of final vowels in compound words?
                [...]
                >Could CV syllables be seen as the primitive ones?

                "The" origin? The question sounds like it's in the grip of this unfortunate 'all languages must really be the same' fever.

                Surely, there are languages that are reconstructible as having had a purely open-syllable stage, which then lost some vowels and thereby gained clusters. Proto-Slavic is a familiar example, for instance, with the fall of the yers. Proto-Slavic was not clusterless, it had some initial clusters, but it's the same sort of thing in principle. On the other hand, Proto-Slavic descended from Proto-Indo-European, which had plenty of closed syllables. So this sort of thing fails to provide any evidence for primordiality.

                There is one of these overly-creative theories of phonology out there -- government phonology, maybe it is? that's the name coming to mind -- that does claim that every word is underlyingly made out of CV units, where the Cs and the Vs both may be zero.

                Myself, though, I'm of a fairly opposite position. The correct theory of cross-linguistic phonology, if you ask me, is probably nothing more than what you get by combining articulatory and acoustic phonetics with the human bias towards categorical perception, and some general cognition stuff about analogy = pattern recognition and maintenance; there's probably no special cognitive principles about syllables or any of it.
                Syllables, for instance, I think are reasonably explained by a few things. For one, nuclei (for familiarity I'll say "vowels") are the parts of speech streams with most sonic energy, and so most consonant distinctions are best and clearestly perceived by what they do to adjoining vowels. This is doubly so for consonants _before_ vowels, since this is where any consonant that involved stopping (or restricting) the airflow has its release burst (or quasi-burst). As such, it's natural for consonants to be understood as forming a unit with adjacent vowels, since so much of their acoustic signals are overlaid: ergo, syllables. Likewise onsets are bound more closely than codas.
                On top of that, the existence of syllable _boundaries_ is probably shored up by analogical effects of patterning of sounds at _word_ boundaries: if every word can be cut into chunks such that each chunk woulda been a phonotactically valid word on its own, then it's reasonable for analogy to let sound changes act on these "subwords".


                On Wed, 3 Apr 2013 19:56:01 +0200, Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets <tsela.cg@...> wrote:

                >On 3 April 2013 19:30, H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...> wrote:
                >
                >>
                >> What about VC syllabic structure? Is that attested anywhere, or it is
                >> regarded merely as CVC with the first C as a glottal stop (or
                >> equivalent)?
                >>
                >>
                >The Arrernte language (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aranda_language) has
                >been argued to have a VC(C) syllabic structure. I don't know how accepted
                >that analysis is.

                I actually talked about something similar to the above in connexion with Arrernte recently:
                http://listserv.brown.edu/archives/cgi-bin/wa?A2=CONLANG;db93d719.1303B

                Alex
              • And Rosta
                ... It s called (tada!) CVCV Phonology, an offshoot of Government Phonology. --And.
                Message 7 of 8 , Apr 8, 2013
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                  Alex Fink, On 03/04/2013 19:41:
                  > There is one of these overly-creative theories of phonology out there
                  > -- government phonology, maybe it is? that's the name coming to mind
                  > -- that does claim that every word is underlyingly made out of CV
                  > units, where the Cs and the Vs both may be zero.

                  It's called (tada!) CVCV Phonology, an offshoot of Government Phonology.

                  --And.
                • Gary Shannon
                  ... Upon first reading that, I thought what a clever name. Then I realized that you were _not_ saying that it was called Tada Phonology . That s a shame. I
                  Message 8 of 8 , Apr 8, 2013
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                    On Mon, Apr 8, 2013 at 12:18 PM, And Rosta <and.rosta@...> wrote:

                    > ---
                    > It's called (tada!) CVCV Phonology, an offshoot of Government Phonology.
                    >
                    > --And.
                    >

                    Upon first reading that, I thought "what a clever name." Then I realized
                    that you were _not_ saying that it was called "Tada Phonology". That's a
                    shame. I think that "Tada Phonology" makes a very good name for it, being
                    that "tada" _is_ CVCV.

                    --gary
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