In the answers to my last phonetics assignment provided by my professor, the syllable tree diagram for the word /ʌ n t æ ŋ g l̩ / didn't show any ambisyllabic consonants. Our textbook doesn't go into much detail on the topic other than explaining that the first consonant in an onset of an unstressed syllable is shared as part of the coda of the preceding stressed syllable. Knowing this I would assume that the the /t/ in the second syllable would be ambisyllabic,however it isn't and I was just wondering why this would be.

Also, would the /g/ in the third syllable be ambisyllabic as well? Or does ambisyllabicity apply on when there in a stressed syllable preceding an unstressed one?

1 Answer 1


The concept of ambisyllabicity is a theory-specific one. Which segments have "ambisyllabic" status (or even whether ambisyllabicity exists at all) depends on one's model, just as how words get syllabified depends on one's model.

That said, there are some phonetic phenomena that make it useful to treat certain segments, such as those that fulfill the criteria outlined in your textbook, as ambisyllabic. For example, in English, nuclei before voiceless consonant onsets in unstressed syllables tend to be shorter than those before voiced consonant onsets in unstressed syllables, which mirrors a pattern seen with voiceless and voiced codas.

Based on the criteria mentioned in your textbook, the /t/ wouldn't qualify since it is in the onset of a stressed syllable. The /g/ is a more promising candidate based on those criteria. Some models might stipulate additional criteria, for example that the resulting coda in the previous syllable be a legal coda in its own right. If that is the case, then the /g/ in untangle actually doesn't qualify because a syllable can't end in /ŋg/ (in the dialect I'm assuming your textbook is assuming!).


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