In linguistics, a foot is used in order to group one or more syllables in order to account for the alternating pattern of stress in a language (Zsiga, 2013, p. 360). The notion of a metrical foot allows the rhythms of words and stress patterns to be accounted for.
In a foot, there is one syllable that is stressed, which is referred to as the head. Which side of the foot the head is on determines whether or not the foot is trochee or iamb. In addition to being trochee or iamb, languages also differ in how feet are built up; from the left edge of a word or from the right edge of a word. Any syllable that is leftover after parsing all other syllables into feet is said to be unfooted (Zsiga, 2013, p. 361).
- In the example below, Dyck (2004) provides an analysis of the Skwxwú7mesh word xícqán, parsing the word into two feet. Both feet in this example are monosyllabic. Syllables are indicated by the σ character.
- Compare the example above to the following example below, also provided by Dyck (2004). Here it can be seen that the first foot, /híhil-/ is parsed into two syllables, and then two syllables are parsed into a foot. Of the two syllables in the first foot, it is the leftmost syllable receiving primary stress.
- The second foot is one syllable.