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VI. Syllable

Though the basic phonological elements are phonemes, human in­tercommunication is actualized in syllables.

The syllable as a unit is difficult to define, though native speakers of a language are usually able to state how many syllables there are in a particular word.

According to J. Kenyon the syllable is one or more speech sounds, forming a single uninterrupted unit of utterance, which may be a word, or a commonly recognized subdivision of a word.

The syllable can be a single word: chair /tfea/, a part of a word: English /'in-gliJV, a part of the grammatical form of a word: later /ilei-ta/.

The syllable can be analysed from the acoustic and auditory, ar-ticulatory and functional points of view. The syllable can be viewed in connection with its graphic representation.

Acoustically and auditorily the syllable is characterized by the force of utterance, or accent, pitch of the voice, sonority and length, that is by prosodic features.

Acoustic properties of syllables are studied with the help of intono-graph and spectrograph. Electroacoustic analysis made it possible to formulate some rules of syllable division (see below). Spectrograms of Russian ГС syllabic structures show, that such syllables are char­acterized by some noise in the beginning of the vowel and by a vow­el-like termination of the consonant: СГСГ, it is of great importance for syllable division.

Auditorily the syllable is the smallest unit of perception: the lis­tener identifies the whole of the syllable and only after that the sounds contained.

The articulatory energy which constitutes the syllable results from the combined action of the power, vibrator, resonator and ob-structor mechanisms.

Phonological! у the syllable is regarded and defined in terms of its structural and functional properties.

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

A syllable can be formed by a vowel: (V) in English, (Г) in Rus­sian; by a vowel and a consonant: (VC) in English, (ГС) in Russian; by a consonant and a sonorant (CS).

Г, V — types of syllable called uncovered open,

ГС, VC — types of syllable called uncovered closed,

СГС, CVC — types of syllable called covered closed,

СГ, CV — types of syllable called covered open.

G. P. Torsuyev suggests a differentiation of the following types of syllabic structures:

Г, V type: fully open,

СГС, CVC type: fully closed,

СГ, CV type: initially covered,

ГС, VG type: finally covered.

The structure of the English and Russian syllable is similar.



V err Г
cvc pit crc
cvcc fact СГСС
cvccc lapsed СГССС
ccvc plan ССГС
cccvc spleen СССГС
ccvccc stamps ССГССС
cccvcc spleens СССГСС
cvcccc texts СГСССС
cv dew СГ
ccv spy ccr
cccv straw cccr
vc eat ГС
vcc act ГСС
vccc asks ГССС













мгла ад акр астр

The peak or the crest of the syllable is formed by a vowel or a so-norant. The consonants which precede the peak and follow it are called slopes.

Vowels /эе, е, л, v, a,:, o:, ei, ai, аи, еэ, oi/ constitute almost always the peaks of prominence, /э, i, u, эй/ occur, as a rule, in unaccented syllables.

The consonant /rj/ never begins, /w/ never terminates the syllable.

The sonorants /w, r, j/ function as consonants, because they occur only before vowels: SVC structural type, e.g. /wi5, rait, jes/.

The sonorants /1, m, n/ can form syllables in terminal position, when preceded by a consonant, e.g. /'pi: pl, iga: dn, Ып, 'j 9


The structural patterns of syllables formed by sonorants with a preceding consonant in English are similar to V-f С patterns: CS written /intn/.

According to G. P. Torsuyev's data the syllabic structure in the English language of the combination consonant (or consonants) +a sonorant is characterized by the following data:

CS type — 40 combinations, CSC type — 90 combinations, CSCC type — 15 combinations, CCSCC type — 1 combination.1

Syllable-forming sonorants in the combinations of the CS type are terminal /m, n, 1/. E. g.

earthen channel prism equal people garden often nation

1 Торсу ев Г. П. Строение слога и аллофоны в английском языке. -1976.

■ М.,

written eagle even decision taken fortune listen rhythm able angel season camel

The combinability of syllable forming sonorants is the [fol­lowing: /1/ combines with all consonants except /6, 5/; /n/ com­bines with all consonants except /m, rj, n/; /m/ combines only with /6, 6, s, z, p/.

The distribution of consonants in the syllables of the CSC type is characterized by the following features: initial consonants may be represented by /p, b, t, d, k, g, f, v, 6, d, s, z, J1, 3, tf, cfc, m, r, w, n/; the medial sonorants may be represented by /n, m, 1/; final consonants are represented by /t, d, s, z, 6/. E.g.

opens vacant goggles ovens patient

marbles enables merchant arrivals] angels

patterns mortals urgent heathens equalled

coupled student softened rhythms motions]

peoples gardens servant decent whistles

officials leventh present persons


The distribution of consonants in the syllables of the C£ CC type is characterized by the following features: the initial consonant may be represented by /p, d, t, tf, dg, f, v, s, z, J\ 5, r/. The peak of syllable is represented by the sonorants /n, 1/, they are immediately followed by /t, d, s/; final consonants are represented by /t, s, z/. E.g.

innocents agents patents tangents parents serpents students servants pheasants errands patients scaffolds licensed merchants heralds

The syllables of the CSVSCC type: entrants /lentrants/, emigrants ^emigrants/, minstrels /'minstrels/, hydrants /lhaidrents/ can5 be pronounced without (V)—CSSCC type, e.g.

emigrants /'emigrnts/ entrants /lentrnts/ minstrels /immstrlz/ hydrants /'haidrnts/

Russian terminal sonorants do not form syllables witlfconsonants, which precede them. However in some special cases: for stylistic purposes, or for the sake of rhythm, they may^become syllabic; e. g. ру-бль, во-пль, ви-хрь, дю-стр. Compare:

1. Была в Останкине зима.
Декабрь, число тридцатое и

2. Была в Останкине зима,

Декабрь, Тридцать первое

In the second variant the Russian /p/ is made syllabic for rhyth­mical purposes.

There are different restrictions on the possible consonant clusters in English and in Russian.

Final clusters in English are much more complex than initial ones. They express different grammatical meanings: plurality, tense, number, e.g. texts, mixed, glimpsed.

The structure of the Russian syllable is characterized by more complex and numerous initial clusters, they represent grammatical prefixes, e.g. вскрикнуть, всплакнуть, взрыв, кстати.

Syllables of the initial CC type constitute more than 50 combina­tions in English (except affricates and double consonants). Syllables •of the initial CC type in Russian constitute 236 combinations (affri--cates and double consonants including), e.g. speak, вчера.

Syllables of the initial CCC type constitute H combinations in English and 97 in Russian, e.g. street, вскинуть.

A number of combinations of the initial CCCC type constitute syllables only in Russian, there are no similar combinations in English, e.g. всплакнуть, взгляд, вздрогнуть.

The clusters/mh, sr, sj, fs, hr, stl/ never occur initially in English, compare with the Russian: мхи, сразу, сшить, всё, хруст, стлать.

The clusters /gr, str/ can occur only initially, /tn, dn, stl/ occur only finally, compare with the Russian: дни, стлать. The cluster (th) does not occur in Russian finally or initially.

In Russian СГ structural types of syllables are more common than ГС type. СГ syllabic types constitute more than half of all the struc­tural types in Russian. СГ together with ССГ types constitute 85%. In the Russian texts open syllables occur 3 times more often than closed ones. The most frequent pattern in English is CVC.

English VC, CVC structures are much more common than the Rus­sian СГ structural type. СГ prevalence in the Russian syllabic struc­ture results in the appearance of the vocalic element of /ъ, ь/ type in­side or before the CC clusters.

They most commonly occur in /гд, дг/ combinations, e.g. «игде», «отъгул».

Similar clusters in English are pronounced with the loss of plosion, e.g. good day, that cat.

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