Chapter 119: Syllable codas

Feature information for this chapter can be found in feature 119.

1. Introduction

Syllable codas are the final parts of syllables which follow the vowel. The four values assigned to this feature are ordered acccording to the increasing complexity of syllable codas. On an implicational scale, languages with more complex coda types also seem to have all the less complex types (see Blevins 1995 and Carlisle 2001). An example is Jamaican, which has mamps ‘fat woman’ (value 4, complex coda), but also rent ‘rent’ (value 3, moderately complex coda), skyan.dal ‘scandal’ (value 2, simple coda), or ma.ka ‘thorn’ (value 1, no coda)

In this feature, no distinction is made as to whether the syllable occurs word-finally or word-internally, and recent unassimilated loans have been ignored.

A comparison with the WALS feature 12 ‘syllable structure Maddieson 2005a is not possible because in the WALS feature, syllable onsets (Chapter 118) and syllable codas (this chapter) are conflated.

2. The values

We distinguish the following four values:

No syllable codas7
Only simple codas32
Codas at most moderately complex30
Codas may be complex6

Value 1 (no syllable codas) is found for example in Principense u.ra.tu ‘rat’, in Kikongo-Kituba ‘I’, or in Pidgin Hawaiian ba.lo.ta ‘vote’.

Value 2 (only simple codas) refers to a single liquid, a nasal, or an obstruent in the coda, as in Louisiana Creole bal ‘dance’, Media Lengua ri.sin ‘recently’, or Michif ka.yaash ‘long ago’.

Value 3 (codas not more than moderately complex) refers to the combination of two consonants, either of a liquid/nasal + obstruent in coda, as ld in Korlai kald ‘broth’ and nk in Afrikaans dink ‘to think’, or of two obstruents in coda, like kt or ks in Kinubi wakt ‘hour’ or Belizean aks ‘ask’.

Value 4 (onsets may be complex) refers to combinations of three consonants in the coda, as mps in Vincentian Creole glimps ‘glimpse’, kwst in Chinuk Wawa makwst ‘two’, or rks in Cape Verdean Creole of São Vicente porks ‘pigs’.

3. Distribution

The most widespread value is value 2 (43%, simple codas), followed by value 3 (40%, moderately complex codas), value 1 (9%, no codas), and value 4 (8%, complex codas).

The areal distribution of the values shows that simple and moderately complex codas (values 2 and 3) occur in all regions, but that the absence of a coda and complex codas are mostly restricted to a particular area.

Value 1 (no coda) occurs almost exclusively in Africa (Kikongo-Kituba, Lingala, Mixed Ma’a/Mbugu, Sango, Principense, Santome), with the exception of Pidgin Hawaiian. It seems that the absence of a coda has been retained from the lexifier languages, the exceptions being the Portuguese-based creoles Principense and Santome, where this value is without doubt due to the influence of the African substrate languages.

Value 4 (complex coda) occurs almost exclusively in the Pacific (Hawai’i Creole), in North America (Chinuk Wawa), and in the Atlantic (Cape Verdean Creole of São Vicente, Jamaican, Vincentian Creole), but is absent from continental Africa as well as from South and South East Asia.

4. Comparison with Chapter 118

The following table compares the values which may occur in syllable onsets (Chapter 118) and in syllable codas (this chapter). Since there are no APiCS languages lacking onsets, values 1 and 2 of Chapter 119 (no syllable codas and only simple codas) have been conflated here.



no or simple



moderately complex






This table shows that there are considerably more languages having no or simple codas than languages that have simple onsets, and, inversely, that there are many more languages having complex onsets than complex codas. The number of languages having moderately complex onsets corresponds more or less to the number of languages having moderately complex codas.