Syllable cut

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The syllable-section or the syllable average correlation or connection correlation referred to in the linguistics a feature pair of vowels , which - on one hand - depending on the terminology cut sharply or in fixed connection can occur, on the other hand gently sliced and in loose connection .

Syllable cut and syllable phonology

The intuition that when a word like fed the vowel [⁠ a ⁠] the following [⁠ t ⁠] sharper cut than is seed is old, certainly. Restle already describes corresponding formulations in grammars of the 16th century (Valentin Ickelsamer 1534). According to Eduard Sievers, syllable phonology is based on the fact that there are two different ways of defining syllables. He distinguishes the sound syllable from the printed syllable . The sound syllable is a unit, the core of which is formed by a maximum in the sonority hierarchy . The printed syllable, on the other hand, is a unit, the core of which is formed by a maximum of the printed accent.

According to Sievers, in German words, like all of them, the division into sound and pressure syllables does not match. On the one hand it has two maxima in the sonority, namely the vowels [⁠ a ⁠] and [⁠ ə ⁠] . So make it two sound syllables. On the other hand, there is only one maximum in the pressure accent. So it only forms a single printed syllable that extends over two acoustic syllables. Between the two syllables sound - the consonants [⁠ l ⁠] - the pressure, however, do not take the sonority off. So the vowel will [⁠ a ⁠] from the [⁠ l ⁠] cut off sharply on the maximum of its print accent. Nikolai Sergejewitsch Trubetzkoy calls this a permanent connection of the vowel to the following consonant. Utz Maas suggested the notation / a↵lə / for this.

It looks different in a word like awl , where the division into sound and pressure syllables match. Both sonority and pressure have two maxima and decrease in the middle. So the vowel will [⁠ a ⁠] from the [⁠ l ⁠] not cut off at the maximum pressure of his accent sharply but smoothly cut off after the decay of the maximum pressure. This is called Trubetzkoy a loose connection of the vowel to the following consonant . Maas suggests the notation / a → lə / for this.

Syllable cut in German

The vowels of German appear - like those of Dutch or English - in pairs such as [ iː - ɪ ] in the minimal pair ⟨riet - ritt⟩ or [ eː - ɛ ] in the minimal pair ⟨Fehl - Fell⟩. In most of these pairs ([ iː - ɪ, eː - ɛ, yː - ʏ, øː - œ, uː - ʊ, oː - ɔ ]) the two vowels differ in two different ways: in vowel quantity and quality . It is therefore not clear whether, in a description of the German vowel system, the vowel quantity should be regarded as the fundamental distinguishing feature of these pairs, from which the vowel quality can be derived as a secondary feature, or vice versa. One solution to this problem is that both quantity and quality are viewed as secondary characteristics, which are to be derived from the primary characteristic of the syllable cut or connection .


The problem with the thesis that vowel quality and quantity correlate with the characteristic syllable cut is that no measurable evidence of the existence of this characteristic has been found. Precisely for this reason, phonology has not dealt with the syllable cut since the middle of the 20th century, but has limited itself to measurable parameters such as vowel quality or quantity. It was not until the 1990s that the discussion of the syllable cut was resumed, among others by Theo Vennemann. In a study of German dialects, Helmut Spiekermann found an acoustic correlate of the syllable cut in the Central and North German varieties. An articulatory correlate of the syllable cut opposition is described by Hoole et al.


  1. David Restle: Syllable Cut - Quantity - Coupling. On the history, characterization and typology of the subsequent prosody. Munich 2003.
  2. Utz Maas: The connection correlation of German in the horizon of a typology of syllable structure (PDF; 1.8 MB), in: P. Auer u. a. (Ed.), Syllable cut and tone accents, Tübingen: Niemeyer 2002: 11 - 34; P. 20
  3. ^ Theo Vennemann: Syllable structure and syllable cut prosodies in modern Standard German. In: Pier Marc Bertinetto, Michele Kenstowicz & Michele Loporcaro (eds.): Certamen Phonologicum II. Papers from the 1990 Cortona Phonology meeting. Torino: Rosenberg & Sellier. 1991. pp. 211-243.
  4. ^ Helmut Spiekermann: Syllable cuts in German dialects. Niemeyer 2000.
  5. Philip Hoole et al. 1994: Kinematic analysis of vowel production in German. In: Proceedings of the ICSLP '94, Yokohama. Vol. 1. 53-56.

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