Ballistic syllable

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Ballistic syllables are a phonemic distinction in Otomanguean languages: Chinantec and Amuzgo. They have been described as characterized with increased sub-glottal pressure (Mugele 1982) or laryngeal abduction (Silverman 1994). The acoustic effect is a fortis release of the consonant, a gradual surge in the intensity of the vowel, followed by a rapid decay in intensity into post-vocalic aspiration. They may thus be a form of phonation.

Non-ballistic syllables are, by contrast, called "controlled."


  • Mugele, R. L. (1982). Tone and Ballistic Syllables in Lalana Chinantec. Ph.D. dissertation. Austin: University of Texas. 
  • Silverman, Daniel (1994). "A Case Study in Acoustic Transparency: [spread glottis] and Tone in Chinantec". Proceedings of NELS. Amherst: University of Massachusetts. 24.