Sample Essay on phonotactic contrast & its relationship with sonority scale.

Phonology concerns itself with organization of sounds in natural languages; thus, syllable structure and other syllable related aspects are important in phonology (Carr 53). This essay evaluates syllable structures, typology of structures and types of syllables. The paper also evaluates phonotactic contrast and its relationship with sonority scale.

To start with, though difficult to delineate with scientific thoroughness, but easy to identify as Kreidler claims, a syllable is an entity of phonological organization that groups consonant and vowels into units (Kreidler 68). In most cases, reckoning the number of syllables in English words is simpler than identifying where those syllables begin and end. Nevertheless, all English words comprise of one or more syllables that define the chains of phonemes. A syllable structure comprises of onset and rhyme (Carr 53). In English, a syllable structure must have a nucleus, which is a subset of rhyme. This means that it is mandatory to have a nucleus in the structure of a syllable, but it is optional to have codas or onsets in syllable structures of English language (McCully 87).

With regard to types of syllables, English has different types that according to Gut are about twenty or more (Gut 76). The first type is the closed type that as the name suggests contains one vowel within consonants or a consonant at the end of the syllable. For example, the word ‘hat’ is a closed syllable because it contains one vowel within two consonants. The second type is the open syllable that contains a single vowel at the end of the syllable. The third type is the r-controlled syllable that contains a vowel followed by letter r. For example, the word ‘hurt’ contains a vowel u controlled by letter r (Gut 77). The fourth type is the double vowel syllable that contains two vowels placed together in a word. For example, the word ‘feel’ falls in this category because it contains two vowels. The fifth type is the consonant-le syllable with a consonant followed by letters l and e. In most cases, letter e in this syllable is silent (Akmajian 130). The word ‘little’ contains this type of syllable. The sixth type is the vowel-consonant-e syllable that as the name suggests starts with a vowel then a consonant and letter e at the end. Usually, the first vowel has a long sound while letter e that comes at the end of the syllable is silent.

In terms of typology, it is possible to have different forms of topologies. First, it is possible to have a syllable with a consonant and a vowel only without necessarily having a coda. Second, it is possible to have a syllable with a nucleus only. Third, it is possible to have a nucleus and a coda without having an onset. In addition, it is possible to have other typologies that have complex onsets, nuclei and coda (Velupillai 78).

Phonotactic constraints outline the order of consonants in the onsets and codas of English words; thus, it allows some orders while it disallows other orders. For this reason, it is possible to have a combination of letters ‘sl’ in the onset, but not on the coda. At the same time, it is possible to have a combination of letters ‘ls’ in the coda, but not on the onset (Gut 78). In terms of its relationship with sonority scale, phonotactic constraint’s rules operate within sonority hierarchy. The hierarchy stipulates that nucleus have maximal sonority that decreases as one moves away from the nucleus, and vice versa.

Works Cited

Akmajian, Adrian. Linguistics: An Introduction to Language and Communication. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2001. Print.

Carr, Philip. English Phonetics and Phonology: An Introduction. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013. Internet resource.

Gut, Ulrike. Introduction to English Phonetics and Phonology. Frankfurt am Main [etc.: Peter Lang, 2009. Print.

Kreidler, Charles W. The Pronunciation of English: A Course Book. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub, 2004. Internet resource.

McCully, Chris. The Sound Structure of English: An Introduction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Print.

Velupillai, Viveka. An Introduction to Linguistic Typology. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Pub. Co, 2012. Print.