Linguistics and the Human Sciences, Vol 9, No 2 (2013)

Similar Place Harmony: A Possible Learning Bias?

Jason Brown
Issued Date: 18 Apr 2014


Similar Place Avoidance (SPA) is a phenomenon well-known to adult languages, where consonants within a root that share the same place of articulation are avoided. The existence of SPA across languages is so robust that it has been claimed to be a statistical phonological universal. Given these claims to universality, this study aims to investigate whether there are any “homorganicity” effects present in the speech of children; i.e. effects that are sensitive to place of articulation. While children often exhibit a stage of consonant harmony, there has been virtually no research involving possible gradient patterns of SPA for children (where the pattern is typically gradient for adult languages). The findings are telling: there is evidence for a homorganicity effect, but one that is driven by agreement in place of articulation, and not avoidance of similar place. This finding is linked to later stages of consonant harmony in child speech.

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DOI: 10.1558/lhs.v9i2.119


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