Those of you who deal with phonetics and phonology of English, and perhaps other languages as well, will surely have read John C. Wells’s article “Syllabification and allophony”, which you can find here:
There are some things that he discusses in the article that I do not understand. Perhaps you can help me sort them out.
For example, the syllabification of words district and extra. He states that district is /ˈdɪs.trɪkt/ and extra /ˈeks.trə/.
I understand that district cannot be */ˈdɪst.rɪkt/, because a syllable-final /t/ would be tappable and “glottallable”. However, it doesn’t brake any phonotactic constraints, does it? There are monosyllabic words that can both start and end the way both of those two syllables in this incorrectly syllabified district do. So why does he state that rule (4) is the reason such a syllabification is wrong?
On the other hand, if /tr/ is indivisible*, why is district not */ˈdɪstr.ɪkt/? That would be the result of rule (2), correct? Is it because /t/ of /tr/ is aspirated, thus it must begin a syllable, and not end it?
Since district comes from Latin dis- and stringō, stringere, from which of these two ⟨s⟩ is /s/ a remnant of and should that have any implications on Wellsean syllabification, i.e. could one posit a possible */ˈdɪ.strɪkt/?
If /dr, tr/ are indivisible, why, then, do we have Woodrow as /ˈwʊd.rəʊ/, woodruff as /ˈwʊd.rʌf/, or midriff as /ˈmɪd.rɪf/, but he allows for bedroom to be /ˈbedr.ʊm/ (it can also be /ˈbedr.uːm/, /ˈbed.ruːm/, /ˈbed.rʊm/, according to his Longman Pronunciation Dictionary)? Why hasn’t he allowed for the possibility of /ˈwʊdr.əʊ/, /ˈwʊdr.ʌf/, and /ˈmɪdr.ɪf/ in those entries respectively?
I was also wondering why *extra is /ˈeks.trə/ (and where exactly has the syllabification of this word been widely discussed)? If /tr/ is indivisible and a stronger syllables glues onto itself as many phonemes as it can without breaking phonotactic constraints, and petrol is /ˈpetr.əl/, why is extra /ˈeks.trə/ and not */ˈekstr.ə/? Aspiration? Etymology? Both? Something else?
Another example is the word monstrous /ˈmɒns.trəs/. If this was ever **/ˈmɒnst‿ər.əs/, and if a stronger syllables attracts onto it as many phonemes as it can without breaking the phonotactic constraints, why does he syllabify it as /ˈmɒns.trəs/?
In the end, regarding /dr, tr/, what are those two? Are the phonemes, which I think they’re not, or something else? What is the succinct way that defines them? Are they consonantal clusters that sometimes coalesce into an affricate, making them an allophone not of a single phoneme, but of two when the two meet?
Of course, Wellsean syllabification has exceptions, which, I believe, are often a result of how Wells himself feels a word is syllabified. The only one that comes to mind right now is the name Sade, as in – the singer Sade, which is /ˈʃɑː.deɪ/, but there are many more.
Second matter regards Wells’s aforementioned Longman Pronunciation Dictionary? Those of you who have it will known that when recapitulating syllables, he will use the symbols bullet ⟨•⟩ and ⟨-⟩ hyphen.
Does any one of you who regularly rifles through the dictionary know when does he use which?
I presume that the bullet, obviously, stands for one syllable, and the hyphen for two or more, but why does he sometimes omit the stress marks and sometimes includes them or why does he sometimes recapitulates the whole word with bullet symbols and stress marks when he can easily bundle several syllables into a hyphen without creating confusion? On the other hand, although one can say it’s glaringly obvious to which syllable the alternative pronunciation refers to, the entry reexamine just uses hyphens and no bullet symbols?
Just when I start thinking I might have got it, another entry appears which demolishes my theory.
Then he also sometimes splits pronunciation with a semicolon. Why?
Minor matters, I know, but it itches me to solve it.
I’d also like to point out that I think he wrote somewhere that he was given limited space to explain certain matters and choices he made (probably on his blog somewhere), but I wish he expanded on them while he was writing the blog regularly.
*It seems that /tr/ is sometimes /tr/ and sometime /t/ + /r/, but it’s not really explained when. I guess one has to use one’s own pronunciation as a guide.