Heavy versus Light Syllable


Syllable weight (or phonological weight) can be described in terms of being “heavy” or “light.” A language’s “heavy syllables” tend to attract stress whereas “light” syllables will often not attract stress.

What a language considers to be “heavy” versus “light” varies cross-linguistically. In other words, a heavy syllable in one language may not function as a heavy syllable in another language (Ryan, 2010).


  • Hul’q’umi’num’
    • Dyck (2004) discusses syllable weight in Hul’q’umi’num’ in terms of attracting stress. The following example illustrates heavy versus light syllables in Hul’q’umi’num’.
    • Dyck (2004) posits that in non-final syllable types (i.e., not the final syllable of a word):
      • 17a) contains one unit of weight on the full vowel
      • 17b) contains no weight (as a result of the schwa not being a full vowel).
      • 17c) can be described as containing two units of wight when the vowel is a full vowel, and one unit of weight when the vowel is a schwa.
Dyck (2004, p. 148)