Maximal Onset Principle

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In phonology, the Maximal Onset Principle is a principle determining underlying syllable division. It states that intervocalic consonants are maximally assigned to the onsets of syllables in conformity with universal and language-specific conditions (see also sonority hierarchy).


The English word diploma can be divided in several ways: vs. However, the only division that is in conformity with the maximal onset principle is


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Kahn, Daniel (1976) Syllable-based generalizations in English phonology. Doctoral dissertation, MIT.
  • Selkirk, E.O. 1981. English Compounding and the Theory of Word-structure, in: M. Moortgat, H. Van der Hulst & T. Hoestra (eds.) The Scope of Lexical Rules, Foris, Dordrecht.