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For other uses, see Pausa (disambiguation).

In linguistics, pausa (Latin for "break", from Greek "παῦσις" pausis "stopping, ceasing"[1][2]) is the hiatus between prosodic units.


Some sound laws specifically operate in pausa only; for example, certain phonemes may be pronounced differently at the beginning or end of a word when no other word precedes or follows within the same prosodic unit, as in citation form. That is the case with the final-obstruent devoicing of German, Turkish, Russian, and other languages in which voiced obstruent consonants are devoiced pre-pausa as well as before voiceless consonants.

The opposite environment is relevant in Spanish whose voiced fricatives become stops post-pausa as well as after nasals. Such environments are often termed pre-pausal and post-pausal, respectively; the phrases in pausa and pausal form are often taken to mean at the end of a prosodic unit, in pre-pausal position, as pre-pausal effects are more common than post-pausal ones.


In English, the last stressed syllable before a pausa receives tonic stress, giving the illusion of a distinction between primary and secondary stress. In dialects of English with linking or intrusive R (a type of liaison), the r is not realized in pausa even if the following word begins in a vowel. Similarly, French liaison does not operate in pausa.

In Arabic, Biblical Hebrew, and other Semitic languages, as well as in Egyptian, pausa affects grammatical inflections. In Arabic, short vowels, including those carrying case, are dropped before a pausa, and gender is modified. The Arabic alphabet has a letter ة (tāʾ marbūṭa تاء مربوطة) for the feminine that is classically pronounced [h] in pausa but [t] in liaison. In Biblical Hebrew, /laχ/ (Hebrew: לָךְ‎‎) is the general feminine form of 'to you' but also the pausal masculine form.[3]

In Spanish, voiced fricative/approximants [β̞, ð̞, ɣ̞, ʝ̞] are pronounced as stops [b, d, ɡ, ɟʝ] after a pausa, as well as after a nasal.

In Tuscan, the full infinitive form of the verb occurs only pre-pausa.

In Kombe, a word-final high tone becomes low or downstepped in pausa.

In Mehri, emphatic consonants become ejectives pre-pausa.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ pausa, Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary, on Perseus
  2. ^ παῦσις, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, on Perseus
  3. ^ cf. Elisha Qimron (2007), Aharon Maman; Steven E. Fassberg; Yohanan Breuer, eds., "The Nature of Pausal Forms" (in German), Sha‘arei Lashon: Studies in Hebrew, Aramaic and Jewish Languages Presented to Moshe Bar-Asher, vol. 1 (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute): pp. 92-106, 95-99. 
  4. ^ Watson & Bellem, "Glottalisation and neutralisation", in Hassan & Heselwood, eds, Instrumental Studies in Arabic Phonetics, 2011.