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Karen Jesny: “The Interaction of Markedness Factors in Child Consonant Cluster Acquisition”

December 2, 2011 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm  |  Stevenson Fireside Lounge

Karen Jesny

Karen Jesny

Consonant clusters introduce multiple sources of markedness that must be mastered in the course of phonological acquisition. This talk considers how segmental markedness, sonority, and cluster status interact in the acquisition process. Two case studies are presented. The first, drawing on data from the English-acquiring child Trevor (Compton & Streeter 1977, Pater 1997) illustrates how increased segmental markedness can lead to lags in coda cluster acquisition, with a preference for deletion of the segment that contributes the additional markedness. This basic pattern eludes Optimality Theory, but can be modeled within Harmonic Grammar (Legendre, Miyata & Smolensky 1990, Smolensky & Legendre 2006), where weighted constraints interact in a linear fashion. The second case study draws on data from the acquisition of Dutch (Fikkert 1994, Levelt 1994), focusing on cases where sonority and segmental markedness present conflicting demands. Here, segmental factors provide a better explanation for the accuracy and general repair patterns than the sonority cline of the cluster. At the same time, however, the precise simplification patterns observed – specifically the choice of which segment is deleted – are, to the extent possible, governed by sonority. These complex patterns extend beyond what can be modeled through the linear interaction of simple constraints in Harmonic Grammar, and argue in favour of a more articulated series of segmental licensing constraints.

Karen Jesny is a PhD student in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Massachusetts. Her primary interests are in phonological theory, phonological acquisition, and learnability.

This talk is presented by the Department of Linguistics. For more information please contact Nathan Arnett,


December 2, 2011
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm


Stevenson Fireside Lounge
Humanites 1 University of California, Santa Cruz Cowell College
Santa Cruz, CA 95064 United States
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