The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 5/4 - Suyeon Yun

Speaker: Suyeon Yun (MIT)
Title: Non-native Cluster Perception by Phonetic Confusion, Not by Universal Grammar
Date: Monday, May 4th
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32D-831

Experimental results of non-native cluster perception have been used as evidence that the Sonority Sequencing Principle is synchronically active. Notably, Berent et al. (2007 et seq.) argue that the knowledge of onset cluster phonotactics is projected from UG on the basis of evidence that speakers whose native languages do not have the relevant clusters perceive universally preferred clusters with rising sonority more accurately than universally dispreferred clusters with level or falling sonority. In this talk, I will report results of my perception experiments with English and Korean listeners in which phonetically diverse stimuli were used. I will argue that the results of Berent et al.’s experiments are just one possible result we may get from some combinations of initial consonant clusters, and thus cannot be evidence for the Sonority Sequencing Principle in synchronic grammar. More importantly, I argue that it is the auditory properties of the consonant cluster that play a more important role in non-native cluster perception than the cluster’s sonority profile.