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Question 3. Syllable as a phonetic and phonological unit. Types of syllables. Syllable formation theories.
Speech can be broken into minimal pronounceable units. These smallest phonetic groups arc generally called syllables. Being the smallest pronounceable units, syllables form morphemes, words and phrases. Each of these units is characterized by a certain syllabic structure.
The syllable is a complicated phenomenon and like a phoneme it can be studied on four levels - articulatory, acoustic, auditory andfunctional. The complexity of the phenomenon gave rise to many theories.
a) expiratory (chest pulse or pressure) theory by R.H. Stetson. This theory is based on the assumption that expiration in speech is a pulsating process and each syllable should correspond to a single expiration. So the number of syllables in an utterance is determined by the number of expirations made in the production of the utterance.
b) Another theory of syllable put forward by O. Jespersen is generally called the sonority theory. According to O. Jespersen, each sound is characterized by a certain degree of sonority which is understood us acoustic property of a sound that determines its perceptibility.
C) In Russian linguistics there has been adopted the theory of syllable by LV Shcherba. It is called the theory of muscular tension. In most languages there is the syllabic phoneme in the centre of the syllable which is usually a vowel phoneme or, in some languages, a sonorant. The phonemes preceding or following the syllabic peak are called marginal. The tense of articulation increases within the range of prevocalic consonants and then decreases within the range of postvocalic consonants.
It is perfectly obvious that no phonetician has succeeded so far in giving an adequate explanation of what the syllable is. The difficulties seem to arise from the various possibilities of approach to the unit. There exist two points of view:
1. Sоme linguists consider the syllable to be a purely articulatory unit which lacks any functional value. This point of view is defended on the ground that the boundaries of syllables do not always coincide with those of morphemes.
2. However the majority of linguists treat the syllable as the smallest pronounceable unit which can reveal some linguistic function.
The structure and functions of syllables in English.Syllables are frequently described as consisting of an onset, which is a consonant, or a few consonants, and a rhyme, often subdivided into a nucleus (a vowel), and coda (any following consonants). In the English language coda does not always have to occur in a syllable, like for instance in the words: he (CV), or too (CV).
The English language has developed the closed type of syllable as the fundamental one while in Russian it is the open type that forms the basis of syllable formation.
functions of the syllable.
The first is constitutive function. It lies in its ability to be a part of a word itself. The syllables form language units of greater magnitude that is words, morphemes, and utterances. It this respect two things should be emphasized.
The other function is distinctive one. In this respect the syllable is characterized by its ability to differentiate words and word-forms. One minimal pare has been found in English to illustrate the word distinctive function in the syllabic: nitrate — night-rate. There analogical distinction between word combinations can be illustrated by many more examples: an aim - a name; an ice house - a nice house, etc. Sometimes the difference in syllable division may be the basic ground for differentiation in such pairs as I saw her rise.- I saw her eyes; I saw the meat — I saw them eat.