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Word prominence in Pattani Malay and the mythical moraic onset (2020-)

Pattani Malay is an oft-cited example of a language with moraic initial geminates (Hajek & Goedemans, 2003; Topintzi, 2008), a claim based on an alleged stress shift process.


This paper provides empirical evidence against previous impressionistic descriptions (e.g., Yupho, 1989) that initial geminates cause stress to move from the final to the initial syllable of disyllables.


Phonologically speaking, a larger vowel distribution and absence of the neutral /ɨ/ in the final syllable point to prominence on the final syllable regardless of the type of onset. Phonetically, our acoustic analysis also reveals that words with and without initial geminates display similar acoustic profiles. More specifically, the final syllable always has significantly longer duration in all utterance positions, and significantly higher F0 in phrase-medial positions.


These results indicate that word-level prominence in disyllables in this language is not attracted by initial geminates but remains fixed on the final syllable. Therefore, the claim that Pattani Malay is a language with moraic onsets is not tenable.


This work is a collaboration between Cornell Phonetics Lab members (Francesco Burroni and Sireemas Maspong) and Southeast Asian Linguistics Research Unit, Chulalongkorn University (Pittayawat Pittayaporn and Pimthip Kochaiyaphum).