Explaining a violation of the sonority hierarchy: stop place perception in adjacent [s]  

Olle Engstrand and Christine Ericsdotter

Proceedings from the XIIth Swedish Phonetics Conference (1999): 49 - 52
(Department of Linguistics, Göteborg University, Sweden)  

ABSTRACT

Jespersen's sonority hierarchy fails to account for commonly observed syllable structures such as initial [spV], [stV] and [skV] and their final mirror images [Vps], [Vts] and [Vks]. It is likely, however, that stop place of articulation is signaled quite efficiently in these sequences since acoustic place information is present both before and after the stop, i.e., both in [s] and in the vowel. These structures may thus have a perceptual advantage over those predicted by the sonority principle. This was corroborated by the present experiment which indicated that listeners are able to reliably perceive stop place of articulation on the sole basis of an adjacent [s]. It was thus concluded that the observed violation of the sonority principle may have a perceptual basis.

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