Minor syllable

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Primarily in Austroasiatic languages (also known as Mon–Khmer), in a typical word a minor syllable is a reduced (minor) syllable followed by a full tonic or stressed syllable. The minor syllable may be of the form /Cə/ or /CəN/, with a reduced vowel, as in colloquial Khmer, or of the form /CC/ with no vowel at all, as in Mlabri /kn̩diːŋ/ "navel" (minor syllable /kn̩/) and /br̩poːŋ/ "underneath" (minor syllable /br̩/), and Khasi kyndon /kn̩dɔːn/ "rule" (minor syllable /kn̩/), syrwet /sr̩wɛt̚/ "sign" (minor syllable /sr̩/), kylla /kl̩la/ "transform" (minor syllable /kl̩/), symboh /sm̩bɔːʔ/ "seed" (minor syllable /sm̩/) and tyngkai /tŋ̩kaːɪ/ "conserve" (minor syllable /tŋ̩/). This iambic pattern is sometimes called sesquisyllabic (lit. 'one and a half syllables'), a term coined by the American linguist James Matisoff in 1973 (Matisoff 1973:86).

Sometimes minor syllables are introduced by language contact. Many Chamic languages as well as Burmese[1] have developed minor syllables from contact with Mon-Khmer family. In Burmese, minor syllables have the form /Cə/, with no consonant clusters allowed in the syllable onset, no syllable coda, and no tone.

Recent reconstructions of Proto-Tai and Old Chinese also include sesquisyllabic roots with minor syllables, as transitional forms between fully disyllabic words and the monosyllabic words found in modern Tai languages and modern Chinese.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Randy LaPolla (2001). "The development of Sino-Tibetian". Areal Diffusion and Genetic Inheritance: Problems in Comparative Linguistics. Oxford University Press. p. 238.