Melodic-prosodic duality of the syllable: An application to Chinese

Yuan LIANG, Lian-Hee WEE

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review


Implicit in all current theories of the syllable is some assumption of the internal configuration. Prevalent among these are the onset-rime (OR) and the moraic (μ) models, both supported by rather different types of evidence. The OR model favors an interpretation where constituency is exhaustive until the level of the segment which itself is a temporal unit with which melodic features associate. The μ-model distinguishes only what is non-moraic from what is moraic so that sub-syllabic constituency is an accidental result of projecting to/from the same mora. This paper postulates a more fundamental segment-melody complex that projects into two different dimensions: melody and prosody, thus capturing the insights of both the OR and μ-models through the separation of constituency issues with prosodic ones. This approach has direct applications in figuring out two long-standing conundrums in Chinese: the status of the medial glide and the prosodic properties of tonelessness. The segment-melody complex also predicts mismatches in moraicity and syllabicity as well as the mediating effect of the skeletal slots between the melodic root nodes and their moraic status. Copyright © 2022 ILAS.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-115
JournalLanguage and Linguistics
Issue number1
Early online dateDec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


Liang, Y., & Wee, L.-H. (2022). Melodic-prosodic duality of the syllable: An application to Chinese. Language and Linguistics, 23(1), 82-115. doi: 10.1075/lali.00100.lia


  • Syllable
  • Mora
  • Foot
  • Segment
  • Feature
  • Prosody


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