Summary and Conclusion
The modification of English consonant clusters in syllable-onset and -coda positions is a common process, subject to synchronic variation and historical change alike. This has a phonological motivation, namely through co-articulation and assimilation processes, but also a typological one, namely through the marked, ‘unnatural’ status of consonant clusters in the world’s languages. The strategies used to modify clusters and thus to adapt syllable structure fall into two main categories: deletion of a cluster segment or insertion of an additional (vocalic) segment to break up or to resyllabify the cluster. The most commonly employed strategy is the deletion of the cluster-final/-initial plosive, which is prominent in all varieties of English (and was thus most extensively discussed here). The other mechanisms, insertion of a vowel before a cluster (#CC->#VCC-) or breaking up of a cluster through intermediate vowel epenthesis (#CC-> #CVC-), occur less often and are mostly found in ESL and EFL varieties. These strategies alternate, occasionally within one and the same variety (as in IndE), and the variety-specific preferences are mostly explained by external history, the developmental stage of English in various regions and the phonological structures or phonotactic properties of the substratal languages (for instance, prothesis is common when the substrates do not permit empty nuclei in syllable onsets).
KeywordsConsonant Cluster Language Change Syllable Onset Language Contact Tense Morpheme
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