Edward Flemming
Department of Linguistics & Philosophy, MIT

ID 1764
[full paper]

All languages allow stop place contrasts in prevocalic position. Many languages allow stop place contrasts before liquids [l, r]. Indeed, stop-liquid clusters like [br, gl] are among the most common word-initial consonant clusters [2]. The preference for stop-liquid clusters is commonly attributed to Sonority Sequencing constraints. Here we pursue an analysis in terms of the availability of cues to place: contrasts are preferentially permitted in environments where they are most distinct. According to this analysis the high sonority of liquids is relevant only insofar as sonorous sounds are better able to support the realization of these cues. It also offers an account of more specific restrictions on place contrasts that are not amenable to an analysis in terms of sonority sequencing. Specifically, we will present evidence that the cross-linguistic dispreference for coronal-velar contrasts before laterals is due to the acoustic similarity of these clusters.