15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-15)
One hypothesis regarding speakers confronted with sequences phonotactically ill-formed for their language is that they will treat these structures as comparably "illegal". However, production results show that while English speakers given non-native fricative-initial onset clusters do not produce them with perfect accuracy, they are better when the first consonant (C1) of the cluster is /f/, followed by /z/, and lastly by /v/. These findings can be interpreted in terms of a combination of perceptual and articulatory influences on phonotactic structures. The disadvantage of C1=/f,v/ relative to sibilants /s,z/ is perceptually motivated: low-intensity fricatives may be insufficiently detectable at obstruent cluster edges. However, the disadvantage of C1=/z/ relative to /f/ may be articulatory in origin, since oral pressure buildup in obstruent clusters makes voicing difficult to maintain. That speakers discriminate /f/, /z/, and /v/-initial clusters, which are not related on an intrinsic phonetic difficulty scale, suggests that they are distinguished at a phonological level.
Bibliographic reference. Davidson, Lisa (2003): "Articulatory and perceptual influences on the production of non-native consonant clusters", In ICPhS-15, 1101-1104.