Volume 7, Issue 3
  • ISSN 1871-1340
  • E-ISSN: 1871-1375
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Do speakers possess universal linguistic restrictions on the sound structure of their language? We examine this question by investigating the restrictions on onset clusters (e.g., bl in block). Cross-linguistic comparisons suggest that certain onset clusters are universally preferred: Onsets like bn are preferred to bd, which, in turn, are preferred to lb. In four experiments, we demonstrate that such preferences constrain onset identification by Spanish speakers: the worst formed the onset, the more likely its misidentification. Onset structure, however, determines not only the rate of disyllabic recoding but also its type. While better-formed onsets of rising sonority are repaired epenthetically (e.g., bnif→benif), worse-formed onsets are recoded prothetically (e.g., lbif→elbif), and the choice of repair (epenthesis vs. prothesis) is modulated by linguistic experience. These findings suggest that speakers possess broad linguistic restrictions that extend to structures unattested in their language, but the response to such putatively universal pressures is experience-dependent.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Onset; Optimality Theory; Phonology; Repair; Sonority; Spanish; Syllable; Universal Grammar
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