Monosyllabic Language
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Monosyllabic Language

A monosyllabic language is a language in which words predominantly consist of a single syllable. An example of a monosyllabic language would be Old Chinese.[1]

Monosyllabism is the name for the property of single-syllable word form. The natural complement of monosyllabism is polysyllabism.

Whether a language is monosyllabic or not sometimes depends on the definition of "word", which is far from being a settled matter among linguists.[2] For example, Modern Chinese (Mandarin) is ""monosyllabic"" if each written Chinese character is considered a word; which is justified by observing that most characters have proper meaning(s) (even if very generic and ambiguous).[3] However, most entries in a Chinese dictionary are compounds of two or more characters; if those entries are taken as the "words", then Mandarin is not truly monosyllabic, only its morphemes are.[1][4]

Single-vowel form

A monosyllable may be complex and include seven or more consonants and a vowel (CCCCVCCC or CCCVCCCC as in English "strengths") or be as simple as a single vowel or a syllabic consonant.

Few known recorded languages preserve simple CV forms which apparently are fully functional roots conveying meaning, i.e. are words--but are not the reductions from earlier complex forms that we find in Mandarin Chinese CV forms, almost always derived with tonal and phonological modifications from Sino-Tibetan *(C)CV(C)(C)/(V) forms.[]


  1. ^ a b Feng, Wang (2015). "Multisyllabication and Phonological Simplification throughout Chinese History". Journal of Chinese Linguistics. 43 (2): 714-718. JSTOR 24774983.
  2. ^ Haspelmath, Martin (2011). "The indeterminacy of word segmentation and the nature of morphology and syntax" (PDF). Folia Linguistica. 45 (1): 31-80. doi:10.1515/flin.2011.002. ISSN 0165-4004.
  3. ^ Hockett, Charles F. (1951). "Review: Nationalism and language reform in China by John De Francis". Language. 27 (3): 439-445. doi:10.2307/409788. JSTOR 409788. an overwhelmingly high percentage of Chinese segmental morphemes (bound or free) consist of a single syllable; no more than perhaps five percent are longer than one syllable, and only a small handful are shorter. In this sense -- in the sense of the favored canonical shape of morphemes -- Chinese is indeed monosyllabic
  4. ^ Hannas, Wm. C. (1997). Asia's Orthographic Dilemma. Honolulu: University of Hawai`i Press. ISBN 9780585344010..

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