Markedness pp 13-38 | Cite as

Word Structure, Markedness, and Applied Linguistics

  • Charles E. Cairns


This paper describes a theory of word structure which incorporates aspects of markedness theory. The theory is illustrated by an account of some facts of English phonotactics and of first and second language acquisition. The phonotactic phenomena serve as the basis for justifying a rich hierarchical structure of English words. The theory presented here is an extension and revision of the one described in Cairns (1982), where I justified a structure of English monomorphemic words which contains syllables ($) and feet (F) as labelled nodes subordinate to the root node word (W). With the exception of some word-initial syllables, all syllables are in bisyllabic or (under special conditions) trisyllabic feet. The first syllable of the English foot is labelled the head syllable ($h). $h enjoys special status in two ways: It is the repository of relative prominence (stress) and allows a greater variety of phonemes and combinations thereof than nonhead syllables. The theory of word structure is illustrated in this paper by an account of aspects of English consonant clusters, especially in the onset; the overall structure of the syllable is also a key focus, especially in the illustrations of the application of this approach to applied linguistics.


Language Acquisition Phonological Representation Lexical Representation Apply Linguistics Syllable Structure 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles E. Cairns
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Queens CollegeCunyUSA
  2. 2.Doctoral Program in LinguisticsCunyUSA

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