Volume 10, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1871-1340
  • E-ISSN: 1871-1375
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Across languages, stop-sonorant onsets are preferred to fricative-sonorant ones (e.g., pna ≻ fna), suggesting that stop-initial onsets are better formed. Here, we ask whether this preference is active in the linguistic competence of English speakers. To address this question, we compare stop- and fricative-nasal onsets (e.g., pnik vs. fnik) to matched obstruent-obstruent controls (e.g., ptik vs. fsik, respectively). Past research has shown that (a) stop-stop onsets (e.g., ptik) are dispreferred to stop-nasal onsets (e.g., pnik); and (b) dispreferred onsets tend to be misidentified (e.g., ptik → pәtik). We thus reasoned that, if fricative-nasal onsets (e.g., fnik) are worse formed relative to stop-nasal ones (e.g., pnik), then fnik-type onsets should be more vulnerable to misidentification, hence, their advantage over obstruent-obstruent controls (e.g., fsik) should be attenuated. Consequently, when compared to the obstruent-obstruent baseline (e.g., ptik, fsik), misidentification should be less prevalent in stop-nasal onsets (e.g., pnik) compared to fricative-nasal ones (e.g., fnik). The results of three experiments are consistent with this prediction. Our findings suggest that English speakers possess linguistic preferences that mirror the distribution of onset clusters across languages.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): optimality theory; phonology; sonority; syllable
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