Since they both describe that onsets take priority over of codas, what is the difference between them?

  • 1
    I've heard of the maximal onset principle, but not "Minimal Onset Satisfaction" or "Onset Maximasation Principle". Where did you find these terms? – Nardog May 6 '20 at 13:29
  • This is what I extract from the book A Course in Phonology by Iggy Roca. Onset maximization: Maximal formation of onsets takes priority over formation of codas. Minimal Onset Satisfaction: Minimal satisfaction of onsets takes priority over satisfaction of codas. – ronghe May 6 '20 at 14:01

Minimal onset satisfaction allows the syllabification of a sequence like atra as at.ra, even when tr is a valid syllable onset, so long as r is a valid "minimal" syllable onset. If tr is a valid onset, it would be necessary to syllabify atra as a.tra when following a rule of onset maximization.

An example of minimal onset satisfaction can be found in the syllabification of prefixed words in Latin.

  • The following clusters all exist in word-initial position in Latin, and so can be inferred to be valid syllable onsets: /bl/, /br/, /dr/

    Example: brevis "short"

  • Attaching the prepositional prefixes /ab/ /ad/ /ob/ /sub/ to vowel-initial bases creates words that scan with light initial syllables in poetry during the Classical period. This is theoretical evidence for the presence of resyllabification of the consonant to the onset of the following syllable in accordance with a rule of "minimal onset satisfaction" (which can alternatively be conceived as "avoiding empty onsets").

    Example: sub- + ago, actus = su.bigo, su.bactus1

  • Attaching the same prepositional prefixes to bases starting with /l/ or /r/ creates words that scan with heavy initial syllables in poetry during the Classical period. (In the case of sub-, the coda consonant of the prefix may assimilate to a following r, resulting in a geminate /r.r/.)

    Example: sub- + rogo = sub.rogo/sur.rogo

    Since the second syllable already has a satisfactory minimal onset /r/, resyllabification does not apply, even though Latin phonotactics allow /br/ as a syllable onset.

Onset maximization would result instead in the syllabification *su.brogo with a syllable onset cluster br.


  1. The scansion of the following line of dactylic hexameter shows that subactus starts with a light syllable, which is interpreted for Latin as a syllable ending in a short vowel:

    tum vero adsurgunt irae, insidiisque subactus, (Vergil Aeneid line 495)


  • Thank you for your reply so much! – ronghe May 6 '20 at 14:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.