Consonant clusters are ‘vulnerable’ in a number of ways and for a number of reasons: they are less common typologically than other structures; they are unstable historically, usually merging with the more sonorous cluster segment; and their production causes problems both for children who acquire a first and for adults who learn a second language. These factors are reflected in context-sensitive variation, which under given conditions can lead to permanent phonotactic change. Chapter 2 discussed clusters in the light of markedness and naturalness, showing that cluster formation is conditioned by criteria related to sonority ranking and morphological status of the individual consonants. Chapters 3 and 4 looked into phonotactic variation and change from a variety of angles, analysing the reduction of clusters in earlier British English as well as in a plethora of contemporary varieties. We are now left with the task of comparing the results and integrating them into a general theoretical framework, interpreting the findings from Chapters 3 and 4 with reference to the most important general aspects from Chapter 2 (and, vice versa, checking whether some generally held assumptions hold in the light of the research findings presented). With these aims, the present chapter discusses some general implications for phonotactic variation and change in synchronic and diachronic varieties of English.
KeywordsConsonant Cluster Syllable Structure Language Change Contact History Language Contact
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