Prosodically-conditioned Syllable Structure in English

Paula Orzechowska 1 , Janina Mołczanow 2 ,  and Michał Jankowski 3
  • 1 Adam Mickiewicz University, , Poland
  • 2 University of Warsaw, , Poland
  • 3 Adam Mickiewicz University, , Poland


This paper investigates the interplay between the metrical structure and phonotactic complexity in English, a language with lexical stress and an elaborate inventory of consonant clusters. The analysis of a dictionary- and corpus-based list of polysyllabic words leads to two major observations. First, there is a tendency for onsetful syllables to attract stress, and for onsetless syllables to repel it. Second, the stressed syllable embraces a greater array of consonant clusters than unstressed syllables. Moreover, the farther form the main stress, the less likely the unstressed syllable is to contain a complex onset. This finding indicates that the ability of a position to license complex onsets is related to its distance from the prosodic head.

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