Consonant clusters are sequences of adjacent consonants. They can be further divided by position within the syllable: Onset clusters occur at the beginning of the syllable (play), coda clusters occur at the end of the syllable (help), and heterosyllabic clusters occur when adjacent consonants appear on either side of a syllable boundary (al.pine). Such clusters can be defined and analyzed by their crosslinguistic occurrence and internal structure. The complexity of consonant clusters makes them vulnerable to errors in perception and production during language acquisition, in clinical populations, and in historical language change.

Crosslinguistic Markedness

Consonant clusters are typologically marked relative to singletons. This markedness has a phonetic basis: Clusters are articulatorily complex relative to alternating consonant–vowel sequences, and segments in clusters can have decreased perceptibility. Some ...

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