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Mongol-Mongolia
Arab-Arabia
Babylon-Babylonian
Boston-Bostonian
comedy-comedian
colony-colonial

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

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1 Answer 1

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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).

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    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

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