Sonority and Syllabification in Casual and Formal Mongolian Speech
Anastasia Karlsson [+]
Jan-Olof Svantesson [+]
Lund University (Emeritus)
Syllabification in Mongolian is achieved by vowel epenthesis and is governed by three principles: The Sonority Law, Right-to-Left Syllabification and the principle of Cyclicity (Svantesson et al. 2005). Because of the agglutinative nature of Mongolian, derivations and inflections are formed by the addition of suffixes to the stem. The syllabification of affixed words is cyclic, so that words are syllabified at each addition of a new affix, that is, at each morphological cycle. Words are syllabified as monomorphemic words until a new affix requires the insertion of a schwa in the already-syllabified part of a word. The insertion is blocked by the Resyllabification Constraint. These rules were worked out on the basis of carefully pronounced isolated words. We find systematic differences in syllabification between casual speech and formal speech (Karlsson 2005). The Sonority Law and Right-to-Left Syllabification are active in casual speech, but the Sonority Law needs to be redefined: only voiced consonants are marked for the sonority feature in speech, while voiceless segments are unmarked for this feature and can combine freely to form a coda until articulation disallows it. It is also interesting that consonant clusters, even those with adjacent identical segments, are seldom reduced in Mongolian speech, and all segments are fully realised (Karlsson&Svantesson 2007). Simplification of consonantal clusters is instead realised by assimilation of the manner of articulation in some contexts. Voicing assimilation, which is frequent but non-compulsory, is the reason for different syllabifications of the same word. Phonemic vowels can be deleted in speech due to devoicing and this is not connected with syllabification and does not influence it. Epenthesis is much more frequent in final consonant clusters than in word-internal position. While word-internal epenthesis is governed primarily by voicing, articulation is the chief factor for schwa insertion in word-final clusters. Syllabification in informal speech is non-cyclic and this may also be connected to syllabification over word boundaries (ongoing study). Based on the Mongolian data we will also discuss the place of the syllable in phonological representation and also whether the domain of syllabification should be reconsidered to be larger than a word for some languages.