AuthorOhala, Diane Kathleen, 1966-
AdvisorArchangeli, Diana B.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation examines the phenomenon of consonant cluster reduction in young children's speech from both an experimental and a theoretical perspective. After first arguing that previous, articulatory accounts of children's cluster reductions are not satisfactory, I propose an alternative hypothesis based on Sonority Theory. Contrary to an articulatory approach which might predict that children reduce consonant clusters to whichever consonant is easier to produce, the Sonority Hypothesis predicts that children reduce clusters to whichever consonant produces the most optimal syllable. An optimal syllable is one that begins with a maximal rise in sonority from the initial consonant to the vowel and ends with a minimal (or no) sonority descent, where consonants are classified as more or less sonorous according to a Sonority Hierarchy. This hypothesis is then tested in two experiments where subjects were asked to repeat names for imaginary animals either of the form CCVC or CVCC. In this way, cluster reductions were elicited from children ranging in age from 29-36 months old. A post-test was also conducted on each child to ensure that both consonants of any given cluster were contained in the child's consonant inventory. Results of both experiments support the Sonority Hypothesis. Consequent to the experimental investigation, I examine several larger issues in language acquisition that are raised by this research, such as the importance of cross-linguistic and child language parallels in acquisition, and the question of variability in child data. This discussion raises the further question of how best to account for these types of disparate properties in child language. As a means of addressing these concerns, I present one possible approach by offering a complete phonological analysis of cluster reduction in an Optimality Theoretic framework. I then examine the success of this account with respect to the issues raised earlier. In concluding this dissertation, I suggest that by also considering the effects of performance factors on children's early productions we can arrive at a fully explanatory theory of phonological acquisition that addresses all of these significant issues.
Degree ProgramGraduate College