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The Status of Final Consonant Clusters in English Syllables: Evidence from Children

by Barbara Anne Hindson, Brian Byrne
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology ()


According to certain models, the syllable has an internal hierarchical structure, with the major constituents of onset (initial consonant or consonant cluster) and rime. The rime consists of the vocalic nucleus and the coda (final consonant or consonant cluster). The purpose of the present study was to collect evidence on the structure of the rime and the status of the coda as a unit, with children as subjects. In Experiment 1, children were found to have less difficulty learning a word game which kept the final consonant cluster intact compared to one which broke it up. The strength of this effect depended on the phonetic class of the postvocalic consonant, with stronger effects for nasals and obstruents than liquids. Aspects of the data indicated that nasals and obstruents behave similarly as postvocalic consonants, whereas other analyses indicated that nasals are intermediate between obstruents and liquids in terms of membership of the coda. In Experiment 2 it was shown that the more robust type of coda cluster is as coherent a unit as clusters in onset position. The data support a model which attributes internal hierarchical structure to the rime, with the coda as a constituent, although the components of the coda depend on the phonetic class of the first (i.e., postvocalic) consonant.

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