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Ballistic syllable

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Ballistic syllables are a phonemic distinction in Otomanguean languages: Chinantec and Amuzgo. They have been described as characterized with increased sub-glottal pressure (Mugele 1982) or laryngeal abduction (Silverman 1994). The acoustic effect is a fortis release of the consonant, a gradual surge in the intensity of the vowel, followed by a rapid decay in intensity into post-vocalic aspiration. They may thus be a form of phonation.

Non-ballistic syllables are, by contrast, called "controlled."

See Chinantec of Ozumacín for examples.


  • Mugele, Robert Louis (1982). Tone and Ballistic Syllables in Lalana Chinantec (Ph.D. thesis). Austin: University of Texas.
  • Silverman, Daniel (1994). "A Case Study in Acoustic Transparency: [spread glottis] and Tone in Chinantec". North East Linguistics Society. 24 (2) 14. Amherst: University of Massachusetts.

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Ballistic syllable
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