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A fake diphthong in English

Harris, John; (2023) A fake diphthong in English. In: van de Weijer, Jeroen, (ed.) Representing phonological detail. de Gruyter Mouton: Berlin, Boston. Green open access

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Abstract

English is generally agreed to have true diphthongs: vowel-glide se -quences contained within the same syllable nucleus. There is evidence that it also has at least one fake diphthong, in which the glide falls outside the nucleus: the /ow/ that occurs post-tonically in words such as yellow, tomorrow, potato.At stake here is the wider question of whether we can maintain the otherwise robust generalisation that stress in English is quantity-sensitive, one symptom of which is that diphthongs render a syllable heavy and thus attract stress. Post-tonic /ow/ appears to breach this pattern. If it were a heavy diphthong, quantity-sensi-tivity would require it to bear subsidiary stress (e.g. ✶yéllòw). However, evidence to be reviewed here clearly points to /ow/ being unstressed in this position.The apparent contradiction is resolved if we treat unstressed /ow/ as a fake diphthong, consisting of a short nucleus followed by a non-nuclear position (i.e. VC). Metrically, this makes yellow just like rabbit: in both cases, the final consonant is extra-metrical, meaning that the preceding syllable is light and unstressed, in accord with quantity-sensitivity.

Type: Book chapter
Title: A fake diphthong in English
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1515/9783110730081-003
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110730081-003
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the version of record. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: English phonology, true vs fake diphthongs, quantity-sensitive stress, extrametricality
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Linguistics
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10153490
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