22. Phonotactics IV: Practice Exercises

     Note: Make sure that you have the Lucida Sans Unicode font installed in your computer so that the IPA symbols will display correctly.

     Use the AnalogX rhyming dictionary "Rhyme", the Scrabble word pattern matching functions, the puzzle solving tools, or whatever resources you have at your disposal to answer the following questions.

Practice exercises:
1. From Ladefoged, p. 86: Try to find words with the
vowels /ɔ/ /ʊ/ /aʊ/ /ɔɪ/ which are closed (forming part of the same syllable) with the following consonants:  /p/ /b/ /m/ /f/ /t/ /n/ /l/ /s/ /z/ /k/ /g/

2. How many words can you find in English that begin with the clusters /sf/ and /sv/?

3. What other initial clusters can you think of that are used in very few words in English?

4. What are some especially common initial and final consonant clusters in English?
(Get some help here. More information on this page on phonaesthemes (also spelled phonesthemes). A phonaestheme is a word with a phonetic likeness to other words of similar meaning. Crush, crash, clash, bash, mash, smash, and smoosh are phonaesthemes of each other. Phonaesthemes may be fragments of very old root words and thus carry meaning, albeit rather vague meaning. The notion of phonaesthemes can perhaps partly account for some of the consonant clusters found in English.)

5. How many words end in -gry? (One answer here.)

6. What is the maximum number of phonemes than can be used to form a consonant cluster at the beginning of an English syllable? What must the first phoneme of a maximally long initial consonant cluster be? Which phonemes, in which position, can follow it? Give example words.

7. What is the maximum number of phonemes than can be used to form a consonant cluster at the end of an English syllable? What must the final phoneme a maximally long final consonant cluster be? Which phonemes, in which position, can follow it? Give example words each.

8. After which phonemes can /l/ occur within an initial consonant cluster? Give example words.

9. Which kinds of nasal + stop, fricative or affricate clusters can occur at the end of an English syllable? Which are homorganic? Based on the number of matches you find for each, which type seem more common in English, homorganic or non-homorganic nasal + stop, fricative, or affricate clusters?

10. Nasal + stop clusters seem never to have been used in English; and stop + nasal clusters are generally not allowed in modern English (except in foreign loans like Knesset, the Israeli parliament), but they were allowed in an earlier period. Use clues from current English spelling to determine which stop + nasal clusters English used to be allowed at the beginning of a syllable.

11. Using silent letters in modern English spelling as clues, what other cluster types were formerly allowed in English, but no longer are? Where in the syllable could they occur? Where could they apparently not occur?

12. In English, which consonants within the same syllable may be preceded by /r/? By /l/?

13. What kind of phoneme sequences have you noticed in other languages that English doesn't allow? Some examples we have already encountered in Ladefoged: initial /pf/ occurs in German, as in Pfanne 'pan', and initial /dn/ is used in Russian, as in [dnɔ] 'bottom'; neither is allowed in English. Can you think of any others? If you are interested in some relatively unusual and exotic ones, read this very detailed LINGUIST post, entitled Un-English segment sequences.

     Can you think of some more good phonotactics questions?

     You will certainly have found that a lot of the results generated by "Rhyme" are proper names or very rare words, or for some other reason not very usable answers for your exercises. Go on to the next page to find out about 'odd' words and syllable types, and how to get the best answers for phonotactics exercises. (Bonus: free PC dictionary!)

Next: Phonotactics V: Exceptions and odd syllable types
(with PC desktop dictionary)

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