The syllabic structure of spoken words: Evidence from the syllabification of intervocalic consonants
Schiller, N. O., Meyer, A. S., & Levelt, W. J. M.
The syllabic structure of spoken words: Evidence from the syllabification of intervocalic consonants. Language and Speech, 40
A series of experiments was carried out to investigate the syllable affiliation of intervocalic consonants following short vowels, long vowels, and schwa in Dutch. Special interest was paid to words such as letter ['leter] ''id.,'' where a short vowel is followed by a single consonant. On phonological grounds one may predict that the first syllable should always be closed, but earlier psycholinguistic research had shown that speakers tend to leave these syllables open. In our experiments, bisyllabic word forms were presented aurally, and participants produced their syllables in reversed order (Experiments 1 through 5), or repeated the words inserting a pause between the syllables (Experiment 6). The results showed that participants generally closed syllables with a short vowel. However, in a significant number of the cases they produced open short vowel syllables. Syllables containing schwa, like syllables with a long vowel, were hardly ever closed. Word stress, the phonetic quality of the vowel in the first syllable, and the experimental context influenced syllabification. Taken together, the experiments show that native speakers syllabify bisyllabic Dutch nouns in accordance with a small set of prosodic output constraints. To account for the variability of the results, we propose that these constraints differ in their probabilities of being applied.