Date of Award

8-1-2014

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Applied Linguistics

First Advisor

Baertsch, Karen

Abstract

This study examines the role of voiceless and voiced fricatives as the first consonant in word-initial true consonant clusters and adjunct clusters. Specifically, this study sought evidence to determine whether the lack of voiced fricatives, such as /z/ and /v/, in English word-initial true and adjunct clusters is due to an active ban or an accidental gap in the language's phonotactics. This study also looked into whether the voiceless alveolar fricative /s/ is the only fricative that can play the role of adjunct segment in word-initial adjunct clusters, or whether other fricatives, such as the voiced alveolar fricative /z/, or the voiceless and voiced labiodental fricatives /f/ and /v/ could also be adjunct segments in word-initial adjunct clusters. Fourteen native English speakers were asked to pronounce a list of non-words containing word-initial clusters with /s/, /f/, /z/, and /v/ as the first consonant and /r/, /l/, /n/, /k/, and /g/ as the second consonant. The clusters were chosen to represent different voicing statuses and places of articulation for the first consonant in the cluster, in addition to differing sonority distances between the first consonant and the second consonant of the word-initial cluster. The native English speaker productions were recorded and acoustically analyzed in order to determine the exact pronunciations each speaker used for each target cluster. The results were then statistically analyzed to reveal patterns. Results showed that the lack of voiced fricatives as the first consonant in word-initial position of true clusters in English is due to an accidental gap, due to the relatively numerous correct productions of such clusters. The the lack of voiced fricatives as the first consonant in word-initial position of adjunct clusters in English, however, is due to an active ban, due to the difficulty that the native English speakers had in correctly producing such clusters. This study also concluded that while /s/ is the only adjunct segment in English, /f/ could also play that role.

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