Article published in:From Letter to Sound: New perspectives on writing systems
Edited by Martin Neef and Beatrice Primus †
[Written Language & Literacy 7:2] 2005
► pp. 205–234
The relation of vowel letters to phonological syllables in English and German
Assuming that a writing system is inevitably dependent on a language system, the main function of written representations is to give access to the basic representations of the language system. In this paper, I want to deal with graphematic phenomena, i.e. the relations of written representations to corresponding phonological representations. In particular, I will delve into the relation of written representations to the phonological factor of the number of syllables, based on data from English and German. Though in these languages, there is neither a specific written element relating to the syllable number nor an isomorphic relation between vowel letters and the number of syllables, two questions are worth examining: Can a word have more syllables than vowel letters? Can a word have less syllables than uninterrupted sequences of vowel letters? The first question will be answered positively for both languages although there are some severe differences to be stated; the second question will be answered positively only for English. I will show that these results are side-effects of more basic regularities of the writing systems under consideration.
Published online: 22 March 2005