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.

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

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