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Language, Literacy, and Technology

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Academic Paper


Title: Listeners' Knowledge of Phonological Universals: Evidence from nasal clusters
Author: Iris Berent
Institution: Northeastern University
Author: Tracy Lennertz
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Northeastern University
Author: Paul Smolensky
Institution: Johns Hopkins University
Author: Vered Vaknin-Nusbaum
Institution: University of Haifa
Linguistic Field: Linguistic Theories; Phonetics; Phonology; Psycholinguistics; Typology
Abstract: Optimality Theory explains typological markedness implications by proposing that all speakers possess universal constraints penalising marked structures, irrespective of the evidence provided by their language (Prince & Smolensky ). The account of phonological perception sketched here entails that markedness constraints reveal their presence by inducing perceptual ‘repairs’ to structures ungrammatical in the hearer's language. As onset clusters of falling sonority are typologically marked relative to those of rising sonority (Greenberg ), we examine English speakers' perception of nasal-initial clusters, which are lacking in English. We find greater accuracy for rising-sonority clusters, evidencing knowledge of markedness constraints favouring such onset clusters. The misperception of sonority falls cannot be accounted for by stimulus artefacts (the materials are perceived accurately by speakers of Russian, a language allowing nasal-initial clusters) nor by phonetic failure (English speakers misperceive falls even with printed materials) nor by putative relations of such onsets to the statistics of the English lexicon.

CUP AT LINGUIST

This article appears IN Phonology Vol. 26, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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