On Sun, 7 Jan 2001, Henrik Theiling wrote:

> jesse stephen bangs <[log in to unmask]> writes:
> > > To my knowledge, Georgian allows a lot: [vprtskvni].
> >
> > Gaaakk!!!  Please tell me that the [r] there is syllabic, or else I don't
> > see how anyone pronounces it.
> :-)
> I suppose `syllables' are something not so easy to define then.
> Listening to people from Georgia, I decided that the two v, the r and
> the i make syllables.  So I counted four, thinking the second was
> stressed: v-'prts-kv-ni.
> But I don't know whether that's accepted theory.  It was what I heard
> and how I could pronounce the word so that people said: `Yes,
> right.'. :-)

This is an interesting question, and one which different natural
languages handle differently. In Berber, for example, there are
no restrictions on letting obstruents (stops, fricatives,
affricates) be syllabic (or at least, very few restrictions), so
syllable structure is rather simple. Here are some examples
(syllable peaks are in capitals):

        .rA.tK.tI.  'she will remember'
        .bD.dL.     'exchange!'
        .tF.tKt.    'you suffered a sprain'
        .tzMt.      'it (f) is stifling'
        .tR.gLt.    'you have locked'


In these forms, there is a minimization of consonant clusters,
but at the cost of allowing all kinds of consonants as syllable

In Bella Coola, on the other hand, obstruents are not readily
construed as syllabic, so strings of consonants are pushed to
the syllable peripheries, where they pile up in delightfully
messy clusters. Based on patterns of reduplication, it seems
that the consonant clusters are outside of the syllable proper:

        p'lA  =>  p'lAlA-  'wink, bat the eyes => continuative'
        (reduplicated syllable = /lA/)
        t'ksN =>  t'ksNsN- 'shoot with a bow => continuative'
        (reduplicated syllable /sN/
        tqNk  =>  tqNqNk-  'be under => underwear'
        (reduplicated syllable /qN/)

The argument is that the syllable consists only of the CV which
reduplicates. The cluster preceding the syllable is outside of
the syllable, and is thus not subject to the reduplication rule.

My impression from the literature is that syllabification in
Georgian is actually more like Bella Coola than like Berber;
i.e., consonants pile up into clusters to avoid being made
syllable nuclei. So the form you cite above would be a single
phonological syllable, since there is only one segment which is
eligible to be a syllable nucleus (/i/). How it is actually
articulated is another matter; even the most nimble tongue will
have transitional spaces between consonants which will sound
like vowels.


Dirk Elzinga
[log in to unmask]