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Syllabification and the Weight-Stress Principle

By San Duanmu


A fundamental consideration in metrical analysis is the Weight-Stress Principle (WSP), whose ideal version is given in (1). But the WSP has many apparent exceptions, as illustrated in (2), where we see a lot of stressed light syllables, violating (1b), and a significant number of unstressed heavy syllables, violating (1a). I argue that the source of the problem lies in a popular view that syllabification and stress assignment are two separate processes, a view that originates from a derivational perspective. If instead we treat syllabification and stress assignment as one and the same process, we can achieve a better WSP and improve syllabification. Kahn (1976) proposes that syllabification is based on the Onset First rule, but he added a condition to ensure that a stress syllable is heavy. Specifically, CVCV is syllabified as CV.CV first but adjusted to CVCV if the first V has stress, where the C is ‘ambisyllabic ’ to ensure that the first syllable is heavy. Selkirk (1982) adopts the same analysis but without ambisyllabic C; thus, CVCV is CV.CV initially but CVC.V if the first V has stress. However, many other scholars dropped the stress-based adjustment and assume the Onset First rule only (e.g. Steriade 1982, Halle and Vergnaud 1987, Baayen et al 1993, Blevins 1995, Hayes 1995); thus, CVCV is always CV.CV regardless of stress. The cost is not only a weakened WSP, but less satisfactor

Year: 2009
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