Sonority & Sonority Hierarchy


In the context of phonetics, sonority is defined as the acoustic force contained within a syllable which differs throughout the parts of a syllable. The sonority in the nucleus (usually a vowel) reaches its peak and is therefore “louder” and more sonorous than at the syllable boundaries (typically consonants), which are the lowest of sonority (Kamigaki-Baron, 2021, p. 135).

Sonority also corresponds to the sonority hierarchy, which ranks sounds in terms of most to least sonorous and posits the distance in between each sound’s sonority (Kamigaki-Baron, 2021, p. 135). The sonority hierarchy is listed as follows:

Most Sonorous: Vowels (index of 5)
Glides (index of 4)
Liquids (index of 3)
Nasals (index of 2)
Least Sonorous: Obstruents (index of 1)



In Kamigaki-Baron’s discussion of Secwepemctsín vowels (2021), it is posited that Salish languages, including Secwepemctsín follow the rules of the previously discussed sonority hierarchy, or else a schwa is inserted (p. 135)