Talk:Mora (linguistics)

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Re: Another term for "mora" transparent to non-linguists.

Having difficulty explaining why counting syllabets created English haiku that were far longer than Japanese haiku, I found that we needed a new term, similar to "mora" but readable at a glance and far easier to remember. It is "syllabet." So far, I have only found it mentioned (I did get credit) in an article in a haiku magazine called Haijinxs.

"Syllabet" seems an intuitively correct way to describe the letters making up the Japanese syllabary.

Please feel free to use it!

robin d. gill

Have revised the page WRT syllable-final consonants. The assumption that a syllable-final C counts as a mora on its own is incorrect, and is probably based on the situation in Japanese. In Japanese, only [n] can appear as a syllable coda, and it is pronounced syllabically, hence it is always a mora in Japanese. However, there's no phonological reason why the English word cat should be analysed as bimoraic. thefamouseccles 13:58 6 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Sure there is. English doesn't allow monomoraic content words like *[kæ] but it does allow bimoraic content words like [kiː]. Since [kæt] is a word of English it must be bimoraic. --Angr 10:11, 14 Mar 2005 (UTC)
    >>In Japanese, only [n] can appear as a syllable coda, and it is pronounced syllabically, hence 
      it is always a mora in Japanese<< IS WRONG. For example, the so-called double consonants     
      in the middle of words, phonological geminates, also represent some sort of syllable coda.   —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:38, 3 December 2009 (UTC) 

Added "modern" to the word "Japanese" last paragraph, since ancient Japanese was strictly syllable counting until in Heian period and ranged between mora counting and syllable counting even later (Bashō's poems vary between counting and not counting moraic n). --FAeR 16:31, 15 Jun 2005 (UTC)

note that Basho was not as strict about counting 5-7-5 as many modern haiku poets, and I've seen one account that said around 10% of his haiku/hokku deviated from that standard. BlankVerse 17:17, 15 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Admittedly, Bashō is not the best example, because he'd been using lots of jiamari and stuff. Nonetheless, I've been told that Japanese was syllable-timing some time ago, references:, --FAeR 30 June 2005 14:21 (UTC)

Can someone please add some examples to this article? As a non-Japanese speaker (and non-professional linguist) I think it would make the subject much easier to understand. matturn 00:41, 11 November 2005 (UTC)

Origin of the term[edit]

I know of no earlier use of the term "mora" as a linguistic unit than that by Edward Sapir. Unless someone knows of an earlier source, perhaps he should be given credit for coining this usage at least. Ziusudra 21:09, 10 March 2006 (UTC)


"Mora" is a Latin term indicating a small delay or duration of time. This in mind, the plural "moræ" is acceptable. In addition to "moræ" and "moras", I have seen, in the work of Priebsch for instance, the use of the plural "moren". This plural seems natural and odd, and I am inclined to believe it comes from Priebsch, or some other German Filolog, introducing the word into English from German (which must have received it from Latin first), rather than Latin, and other, English writers, picking up this plural from him. Priebsch also suggests the idea of "half-moren" in order to solve certain moren counting inconsistencies.

Moren is certainly the German plural of Mora, but it would be quite odd to use moren as a plural of mora in English. Angr/talk 12:19, 12 March 2006 (UTC)


The fact that Japanese uses moras for counting beats does not mean Japanese doesn't have syllables. The "syllabic n" can only be found in syllable coda position: [pan] is a possible (and real) word of Japanese, while *[npa] isn't. The "gemination mora" can also only occur in coda position: [patto] is a possible word of Japanese, but *[ppato] isn't. [pan] is "two beats" because it's two moras, and moras are what's counted in Japanese. But Japanese still definitely has syllables. Angr (tc) 10:34, 19 May 2006 (UTC)

I think more examples are needed. The subject is hard enough to understand as is.

It's not that simple. Japanese is not English, and IMHO in Japanese the distinction between syllables and morae is not as marked (if there is any distinction at all). The syllabic nasal ん does occur as a word in it's own right, being a contraction of の "no". In songs ん is treated like any other syllable. That's why it's still reasonably accurate to say that a Haiku is 5/7/5 syllables. What about unvoiced vowels? した "shita" might sound like "shta" to the layman (one syllable) but in fact it is a full two syllables. The first one has an unvoiced vowel but still you put your mouth in the position of saying "shi" and you take about the same time to say it as if you voiced the /i/. It would feel wrong to think of "pan" or "shita" as one syllable words. You just wouldn't be speaking the language correctly. Raichu2 (talk) 18:30, 3 August 2008 (UTC)

It is correct that in Japanese, the words Tōkyō (to-o-kyo-o とうきょう), Ōsaka (o-o-sa-ka おおさか), and Nagasaki (na-ga-sa-ki ながさき) all have four moras. To state that "they have two, three, and four syllables, respectively." is wrong. In Japanese each letter has one syllable. Japanese isn't English. In Japanese the letter for syllables and mora are basically the same. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:18, 27 October 2011 (UTC)

There is at least one Japanese word starting with "n": "nda", which means "yes" in Akita dialect. JIMp talk·cont 13:56, 29 March 2013 (UTC)

No tetramoraic syllables?[edit]

From the article: "Most linguists believe that no language uses syllables containing four or more moras." But how is the English word "trounced" [tɹ̥aʊnst] ordinarily broken up into moras? Using Japanese rules, it would be t-ro-u-n-ce-d (トラウンスト). --Damian Yerrick (talk | stalk)

Right, but English isn't Japanese. There's no reason to believe that every segment in a syllable coda gets its own mora; trounced probably has no more moras than gown does (two or three depending on whose analysis you believe). —Angr 04:01, 7 May 2007 (UTC)
But doesn't that mean the concept of moras is vacuous in English? If 'strengths' and 'bone' both have three moras, does this tell us anything useful at all? Jacob Newton (talk) 10:38, 16 July 2009 (UTC)
In English, the concept of moras explains why [si:] (two moras) and [sIt] (two moras) are possible words, but *[sI] isn't a possible word. +Angr 10:58, 16 July 2009 (UTC)
I agree with Jacob Newton. Sea is really [si] phonemically for all native speakers and phonetically for many. [sɪ] is not a word in English, but that's just a different vowel and not a difference in moras. Anyway, everyone knows "meh" [mɛ] is a fully modern and used and popular word that's amazingly easy for every English speaker to pronounce. "Sea" and "meh" and "sit" and "bones" and "trounced" are all equal because you use them equally. They're all single syllables, and the moras are unknown to us English speakers becauese we don't pronounce moras. They're just not part of our language. I, just like many speakers, pronounce seat [sit] a little shorter than sit [sɪt], and this contradicts Angr's example about [si:]. A skosh longer here and a skosh shorter there is not the same thing as actual long and short vowels that exist in languages like Japanese. We don't need to "believe" anyone's analysis because we don't need to believe in moras in English. Moras are not real things that exist in soundwaves in the real world. Moras are a way of chopping sounds, and in English, that way of chopping conflicts with actual usage. Believing moras are in English is like believing Bilbo Baggins is in the Bible. I sure hope this rant makes its point. The whole way moras and syllables are being treated in Wikipedia smacks of writers getting tricked into believing in pie in the sky ideas and forgetting to focus on the reality. Vacuous? Yes! Moras are fully vacuous. They're not real. They're fiction! Fiction is immaterial nothing that you imagine. More vacuous than a vacuum. (Ejoty (talk) 14:01, 11 September 2009 (UTC))
You hoped your rant made its point, but in fact it makes no sense at all. It's true moras are not directly measurable with soundwaves, but then neither are syllables, and neither is the difference between tense and lax vowels like /i/ and /I/. That doesn't mean moras "aren't part of our language", and it certainly doesn't mean "we don't pronounce moras", which doesn't even make sense. The fact that /sit/ has a slightly longer vowel than /sIt/ has nothing whatever to do with mora count. I'm confident that Wikipedia's coverage of moras reflects the current majority view among professional mainstream phonologists. +Angr 15:08, 11 September 2009 (UTC)
First of all, you bothered to read my rant, but got what I said about [sit] and [sɪt] backwards. Secondly, you rudely accuse me of making no sense at all, while demonstrating my point. You say that both syllables and moras aren't directly measurable "with soundwaves," and that shows how both moras and syllables are cultural constructs we CAN use to add to our understanding of pronunciation. We aren't required to perceive moras in English the same way we're not required to do a feminist reading of "Hamlet." Think about how syllables are relevant enough to be shown in the pronunciations given in English dictionaries while moras are neither indicated in these dictionaries nor sought by their readers. Now think about how, when you advocate the use of moras for the analysis of English, you are trying to put an O-shaped peg into an あ-shaped hole. (Ejoty (talk) 13:41, 15 September 2009 (UTC))
Sorry, I hadn't noticed that you got your facts about /sit/ and /sIt/ backwards. Moras and syllables aren't "cultural concepts", they're units of a linguistic model that attempts to make sense of how languages work, and they are equally useful for describing both English and Japanese. Of course "we aren't required to perceive moras in English", but we're not required to perceive them in Japanese either, nor are we required to perceive syllables in either language. But our understanding of the phonologies of both languages is improved if we posit both categories in our analyses of both languages. There are definitely languages where moras don't seem to play any role, and a few where even syllables don't seem to play any role, but English and Japanese aren't among either group. +Angr 18:45, 15 September 2009 (UTC)
You are sarcastically apologizing and saying I have my facts backwards, but my facts are indisputably straight. They're indisputable because I was referencing my own pronunciation. That's something you can't debunk, at least without scurrying around me with a voice recorder. [sɪt] is the longer one for me. There's a whole community I acquired this pronunciation from, and we don't have any facts backwards, and your way isn't more correct. You quote me that we're not required to perceive moras in English, but you're not showing comprehension of cultural constructs or the analogies I've made to illustrate them. You can't think or utter noumenal things (things in themselves). Every word you type and think is a cultural construct. Of course mora is too. Both mora and syllable are products of our minds, and there is no 'real' mora or syllable hiding out there for you to defend. By using syllables to affect timing and relate to prosody, the English language asserts the existence of syllables in itself as a text. This is an interplay of cultural constructs, but that's all that languages consist of. Because of this assertion, English speakers learn the concept of the syllable while learning to pronounce words as babies. We don't know learn moras as babies, and our brains don't need to be wired for them in order to speak English. Damian Yerrick's example defies the use of moras for English: linguists can't even agree on a number of moras for it. He didn't even use "strengths" which is the most extreme argument. Syllables are a neat and workable tool for English, but moras are defective. It's not odd that we native speakers have doubts about moras, easily think up ideas that break the rules of moras, and observe that they're vacuous: it's what our language asserts. Japanese is a perfectly fine language. Let's admit that moras describe languages like Japanese, and start making sense to our readers. Both the tetramoraic rule, and moras have been trounced by English. (Ejoty (talk) 16:24, 22 September 2009 (UTC))
Neither moras nor syllables are "cultural concepts". They are nothing but tools linguists use to make explaining the behavior of languages easier; the same is true of phonemes, phonological features, and syntactic trees. None of these things is "real" in an objectively measurable way, but all of them belong in an adequate theory of linguistics. English speakers do not "learn the concept of the syllable while learning to pronounce words as babies", they learn the concept of the syllable when they go to school and their teacher tells them about it. The fact that they'll learn about syllables in elementary school but won't learn about moras until they take a linguistics class at university doesn't mean syllables are more important in the analysis of English, or more "real" in the minds of speakers, than moras are. +Angr 16:50, 22 September 2009 (UTC)
Actually, both are cultural concepts but that does not make them "vacuous." A wide variety of phenomena, even those with a biological basis, have connections to culture. Food, for instance, is a cultural concept (what we consider isn't food, how we eat it, etc) but it's still a reality and certainly not vacuous. Language itself is also a cultural concept (what constitute words and meanings, the accepted word order, the proper place for use, etc) but there's no question that language exists in a non-vacuous way.
Similarly, while the treatment and importance of moras and syllables vary amongst different languages and analyses thereof (i.e. culture), calling them "vacuous" means that their use in phonology is unhelpful when that is simply untrue. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɻɛ̃ⁿdˡi] 17:12, 22 September 2009 (UTC)

My 2¢: It's kind of interesting that every monosyllabic English word with no coda and a lax vowel (ǝ, e, ı, æ, ɑ/ɔ, ʌ; those that were short before the Great Vowel Shift) is a function word. (talk) 13:19, 21 April 2017 (UTC)

Examples, please[edit]

Plenty of English examples would be helpful. After all, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia and is, surely, widely consulted by people with no specialized knowledge of the subject. Norvo (talk) 03:20, 23 May 2009 (UTC)

I agree with Norvo. If you understand it, then you'd be able to simplify it to layman's terms. After reading once through the article I still have no real concept of what mora is. Please give examples, something we can identify with. Dragix (talk) 20:56, 23 November 2009 (UTC)

English doesn't work well for examples. It's not a matter of understanding it, but of the structure of the language.
A mora is a "sub-syllable": it's what light syllables have one of and heavy syllables have two (or three) of. They're important for figuring out stress in Latin, Arabic, and Hindi, and for poetic meter at least in Latin and Japanese. English just doesn't work that way: in English, the syllable depends on stress, stress doesn't depend on the syllable. If we had to make up an example, I guess I'd say that the si in sitter was one mora, which is why the t joins that syllable (sit-er), whereas the ce in cedar is two moras, which is why it can be a full syllable (ce-der). But I doubt that would stand up very well to scrutiny, and in any case would be WP:original research. —kwami (talk) 02:58, 24 November 2009 (UTC)

Would it be possible to include a link to a audio file of a linguist reading the text? Reading the examples out loud requires an understanding that not everyone has. In this case a sound is worth a thousand characters. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Docmartin9 (talkcontribs) 03:20, 22 March 2010 (UTC)

I don't think a sound file would help. You can't really hear moras directly. +Angr 10:54, 22 March 2010 (UTC)

I also agree with Norvo and Dragix that examples in English (the language I read Wikipedia in) would be greatly helpful. Also most helpful in the list of languages would be English, at least as helpful as, say, Gilbertese. (talk) 19:11, 15 February 2011 (UTC)TerryDarc

Incorrect syllable count[edit]

"the words Tōkyō (to-o-kyo-o とうきょう), Ōsaka (o-o-sa-ka おおさか), and Nagasaki (na-ga-sa-ki ながさき) all have four moras, even though they have two, three, and four syllables, respectively."

This is wrong. All three of these words have four syllables. Fix this junk. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:18, 12 January 2010 (UTC)

Actually, they don't. You know the difference between a syllable and a mora, right? — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɛ̃ɾ̃ˡi] 05:52, 12 January 2010 (UTC)
There has been debate about "Tokyo" as an example over on the Haiku discussion page (and also about the transliteration of the separated morae). The biggest problem, to my mind, is that English-speaking readers pronounce "Tokyo" as three syllables (To-ky-o) and Japanese-speakers saying this is a mispronunciation does not help the clarity. See Tesspub (talk) 10:26, 14 March 2011 (UTC)

Actually, I see another issue with this: as I understand it, the concept of "syllable" is as obscure to Japanese speakers as "morae" is to English speakers. I am not certain you can state unequivocally that, in Japanese, Osaka has three syllables, for example. Taking this point together with my point above it makes the statement that Tokyo has two syllables even more confusing and even less helpful. Tesspub (talk) 10:34, 14 March 2011 (UTC)

Symbol missing[edit]

Could be nice if the symbol µ for mora was mentioned somewhere in the article. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:31, 24 May 2010 (UTC)

Latin metre[edit]

Is Latin metre effectively an example, with long syllables being two moras long? If so perhaps the article should say something about this. Ben Finn (talk) 11:30, 24 January 2011 (UTC)


This section is not really useful without transliteration of what I assume is Tamil script. A translation of meaning would also be a polite addition. (talk) 00:33, 25 June 2013 (UTC)

Indeed. Someone should do this for those of us who don't understand the script. Is there a special tag for this? I've been unable to find one.
This help request has been answered. If you need more help, you can ask another question on your talk page, contact the responding user(s) directly on their user talk page, or consider visiting the Teahouse.
Is there a tag marking this page as missing translation/transliteration/transcription? --Pet'usek [petrdothrubisatgmaildotcom] 22:28, 24 June 2014 (UTC)
I've added {{not English}} to the section and listed it at Wikipedia:Pages needing translation into English#June 24. Huon (talk) 22:56, 24 June 2014 (UTC)
Excellent! Thanks a lot! Pet'usek [petrdothrubisatgmaildotcom] 14:32, 25 June 2014 (UTC)