Karen Jesney, University of Southern California

The Interaction of Markedness Factors in Child Consonant Cluster Acquisition 

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. 

Compton, Arthur J. & Mary Streeter. 1977. Child phonology: data collection and preliminary analyses. In Papers and Reports in Child Language Development 13. Stanford University. 

Fikkert, Paula. 1994. On the Acquisition of Prosodic Structure. PhD dissertation. University of Amsterdam.

Legendre, Géraldine, Yoshiro Miyata & Paul Smolensky. 1990. Harmonic Grammar – a formal multi-level connectionist theory of linguistic wellformedness: an application. In Proceedings of the Twelfth Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 884-891. Cambridge, MA: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Levelt, Clara C. 1994. On the Acquisition of Place. PhD dissertation. Leiden University.

Pater, Joe. 1997. Minimal violation in phonological development.Language Acquisition 6(3): 201-253.

Smolensky, Paul & Géraldine Legendre. 2006. The Harmonic Mind: From Neural Computation to Optimality-Theoretic Grammar.Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.