the wiki article on syllable-timed languages says the following

Syllable-timed languages tend to give syllables approximately equal prominence and generally lack reduced vowels.

Are there any syllable-timed language(s) that has reduced vowels?.

1 Answer 1


Almost by definition, there cannot be. If every syllable in a syllable-timed language has the same duration, then a change from vowel A to vowel B would not be reduction (which applies to "weak" vowels), it would be something else, such as "dissimilation" (an example is Woleaian). Lehiste (1977) ("Isochrony reconsidered") has a different, more gradient view of "syllable-timed", where there are detectable tendencies across languages for timing to aim for consistency in moras, syllables of stress-feet, but there is how a sharp trichotomy between three kinds of languages. Accordingly (and at the same time and place), Major in his dissertation on Brazilian Portuguese prosody provides evidence for an elements of syllable-timing in that language. This work by Nobre & Ingemann shows that in Brazilian Portuguese, there is also stress-sensitive vowel reduction. So languages do exist demonstrably with both properties. The main challenge in finding examples is that proving that a language is syllable-timed is very difficult.

  • 2
    There are languages that merge various vowels in unstressed syllables (e.g., only /o a i/ can appear there) – that is often considered a form of vowel reduction, even if it doesn’t reduce the length of the syllable. Can’t think of any such languages that would also be syllable-timed off the top of my head, but there’s no reason they couldn’t exist. Aug 29, 2022 at 0:14
  • 4
    How syllable-timed do you consider Italian? (I've seen assessments vary quite a lot!) The pairs of vowels /e/ and /ɛ/, /o/ and /ɔ/ are distinguished only in stressed syllables, being usually assigned as /e/ and /o/ in unstressed syllables (but I see no reason why the actual pronunciation couldn't vary and be intermediate).
    – LjL
    Aug 29, 2022 at 1:02
  • The wiki article mentions French as syllable-timed, and there's French petit “small” which is /pə.ti/, /p.ti/ with the first vowel able to be reduced practically to zero.
    – Yellow Sky
    Sep 6, 2022 at 2:20

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.