Alexa Rosalsky

By William & Mary

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In English, some consonants feel like they belong to two different syllables. The ‘p’ in ‘happy’ is a good example. Some languages, like Hungarian, have long, double consonants, called geminates, to fulfill conflicting requirements on syllable structure. In English, we do not have a distinction between long and short consonants therefore consonants are shared between two syllables and called ambisyllabic. Ambisyllabic consonants primarily occur following a certain class of vowel, like the ‘a’ in ‘tapping’ or the ‘i’ in ‘bitter’.  In a pilot experiment I ran during a linguistics course, I found a significant difference in the length of ambisyllabic and non-ambisyllabic consonants. With this research project I intend to discover if the difference in consonant length is due to the fact that an ambisyllabic consonant is both the coda of one syllable and the onset of the next, or if it is due to something about the preceding vowel. I will accomplish this by having participants produce ambisyllabic and non-ambisyllabic consonants following the same vowel in nonsense words and comparing the length of the consonants. If the difference is due to ambisyllabicity it would provide support for a sort of “phonetic geminate.” 

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Sondra P. Rosalsky
Gail Shuttleworth

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