15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-15)

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003

On Phonotactic Difficulty

Katarzyna Dziubalska-Kolaczyk

Adam Mickiewicz University, Poland

53 subjects, aged 11-13 years, native speakers of 15 various languages (of the Austronesian and Sino-Tibetan family, as well as Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese) were recorded reading English sentences containing phonotactically complex nonsense words. It was hypothesised that a degree of difficulty in pronouncing those words would correlate with the complexity of a given consonantal cluster, as measured by the Optimal Sonority Distance Principle (OSDP). The latter factor was expected to be a universal criterion, underlying the performance of all subjects, and surpassing other relevant factors, such as the structure of the subjects' mother tongue, their experience with English or their other capacities and motivations. Preferred clusters are expected to be easier and less susceptible to reductions and assimilations than the dispreferred ones. Apart from theoretical implications, discovering those universal tendencies is highly relevant for the development of foreign language teaching methods and materials.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Dziubalska-Kolaczyk, Katarzyna (2003): "On phonotactic difficulty", In ICPhS-15, 2729-2732.