I know that the vowel in the second syllable is lengthened, but what are the rules or constraints for the lengthening?


1 Answer 1


This is the result of rule (20b), p. 181 of Chomsky & Halle 1968 The sound pattern of English, colloquially known as "Abelian lengthening". By that rule, a non-high vowel becomes tense (that was later reanalyzed as length) before one consonant followed by an unstressed front vocoid in turn followed by a vowel (i.e. before CĭV).

  • 3
    But notice that there is a contrary rule as well (though it is somewhat unpredictable. Trisyllabic laxing is the name for the process in satire -> satirical, insane -> insanity, cone -> conical.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 13:55
  • @user6726 Thank you for your reply. May I ask one more question? What does the C1 with the footnote 1 in the rule (20b) mean?
    – ronghe
    Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 2:01
  • That means "between 1 (the subscript) and 1 (the superscript) consonant", i.e. "exactly one". It is a complete mystery why they did not just write that as "C", which means the same thing.
    – user6726
    Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 4:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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