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Academic Paper

Title: Asymmetries in the acquisition of word-initial and word-final consonant clusters
Author: Cecilia Kirk
Institution: University of Canterbury
Author: Katherine Demuth
Institution: Macquarie University
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition
Abstract: Previous work on the acquisition of consonant clusters points to a tendency for word-final clusters to be acquired before word-initial clusters (Templin, 1957; Lleó & Prinz, 1996; Levelt, Schiller & Levelt, 2000). This paper evaluates possible structural, morphological, frequency-based, and articulatory explanations for this asymmetry using a picture identification task with 12 English-speaking two-year-olds. The results show that word-final stop+/s/ clusters and nasal+/z/ clusters were produced much more accurately than word-initial /s/+stop clusters and /s/+nasal clusters. Neither structural nor frequency factors are able to account for these findings. Further analysis of longitudinal spontaneous production data from 2 children aged 1;1–2;6 provides little support for the role of morphology in explaining these results. We argue that an articulatory account best explains the asymmetries in the production of word-initial and word-final clusters.


This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 32, Issue 4, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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