E.g. /knank stjajts smoms/ even they do follow the Sonority Sequencing Principle

  • 2
    At least some palindrome syllables are relatively common. For instance, “stats”
    – J-mster
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 16:08

2 Answers 2


There are several reasons conspiring to make palindromic syllables rare in natural languages

  • Most languages have certain restrictions on the beginning and ending consonant clusters of syllables, and those restrictions are typically not symmetrical, i.e., in general a reversed syllable needn't be legal
  • a diphthong at the syllable core cannot occur in a palindromic syllable
  • there are also some consonants (e.g. affricates like /ts/ or /pf/) that cannot be reversed
  • diachronic processes like dissimilation tend to get rid of double occurrences of the consonants /l, n, r/ in one syllable

Nevertheless, simple palindromic syllables occur and some frequent words (like English a, did) are examples of them.

  • Isn't assimilation also at work?
    – amI
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 21:30
  • Assimilation usually affects neighbouring consonants, while dissimilation works over the syllable core. I don't think that assimilation does much to the probability of palindromes. Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 9:22
  • 1
    Perhaps also mention asymmetry with affricates; it is not unusual for e.g. /ts/ to be an affricate but /st/ to not be one.
    – tripleee
    Commented Apr 14, 2018 at 12:21
  • I don't mean they can't be reversed; but the sound in aufpassen doesn't sound like the reverse of Pfad; and the one in zucchini doesn't sound and often isn't perceived as the reverse of the one in bistro, as even the Italian orthography indicates.
    – tripleee
    Commented Apr 14, 2018 at 18:26
  • @tripleee Your comments made me curious to ask a new question on that: linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/27738/… Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 10:23

No language has a significant tendency to exclude palindromic syllables: if plarg and gralp are possible syllables, plalp and grarg are as well.

  • 2
    Hmm... at least dissimilation is an anti-palindromic process working against plalp and grarg Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 16:44
  • I think not, that is, dissimilation does not care about palindromicity, it cares about broader similarity. Place dissimilation for example may ban multiple velars in a syllable, which is distinct from an actual anti-palindrome principle. Place dissimilation more broadly targets *klaks", which is not a palindrome
    – user6726
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 17:14
  • 3
    Yes, it affects non-palindromes as well as palindromes. But the net effect is a deprecation of palindromes. Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 17:21
  • I would agree to a different question: are there any languages that deprecate syllables with similar consonants? That possibility is not "general" in languages, it is rare but not non-existent.
    – user6726
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 17:34

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