Metrical tree

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In phonology, a metrical tree is a branching representation of stress, introduced by Liberman & Prince (1977) in the framework of metrical phonology. A metrical tree is a hierarchy in which syllables are combined into feet and feet into a word constituent. Higher level structure includes the phonological phrase, intonational phrase and utterance (cf. Selkirk (1981), Nespor & Vogel (1986)). Pairs of sister nodes are labeled Weak-Strong or Strong-Weak (or by the Lexical Category Prominence Rule).


The English phrase achromatic lens is represented as follows:

                 / \
                /   \
               /     \
              /       \
             w         s
          /     \      |
        Fw       Fs    F	      
       /  \     /  \    \ 
     Ss   Sw   Ss   Sw   S
     |     |   |    |    |
     a   chro  ma  tic lens

where S = syllable, w = weak, F = foot, s = strong


Hayes (1981) constrained metrical theory considerably by the introduction of a universally defined set of parameters that characterize the stress systems of languages (i.e. bounded/unbounded; dominance (left/right), direction of footing, quantity-(in)sensitivity).


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Hayes, B. (1981) A metrical theory of stress rules, PhD diss. MIT Cambridge, MA. Revised version distributed by IULC, published by Garland Press, New York, 1985.
  • Liberman, M. and A. Prince (1977) On Stress and Linguistic Rhythm, Linguistic Inquiry 8, pp. 249-336
  • Nespor, M. and I. Vogel (1986) Prosodic Phonology, Foris, Dordrecht.
  • Selkirk, E.O. (1981) English Compounding and the Theory of Word-structure, in: M. Moortgat, H. Van der Hulst & T. Hoekstra (eds.) The Scope of Lexical Rules, Foris, Dordrecht.