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On Complex Syllable Onsets In Latin

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Chapter Summary

Latin syllables are traditionally divided into long and short ones, using the same terminology as for the vowels. A light syllable is one ending in a short vowel; all other syllables are heavy. The metric rule in Latin school grammar says that, for metric purposes, a syllable containing a short vowel nevertheless counts as heavy if it is followed by two consonants. The sequence 'obstruent plus nasal' occurs in the middle of Latin words both with preceding morpheme boundary, as in cognatus 'cognate', and without, as in dignus 'worthy'. By phonotactic criteria, Latin /f/ and /s/ do not belong in the same class of phonemes. /f/ patterns with the stops, as already observed by Donatus. /s/, instead, patterns with nothing, since unlike /f/, it does not form syllable-initial muta cum liquida clusters but does introduce lexemeinitial obstruent clusters, which, however, become heterosyllabic in context.

Keywords: Latin syllables; muta cum liquida clusters

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