Description

In many varieties of African-American English, word-final consonant clusters are reduced. That is, certain members of the cluster, such as stops, are dropped. Therefore, words such as desk, post, and walked are pronounced as , , and . This phenomenon is sensitive to morphological information. If the cluster reduction would eliminate a grammatical marker, then it is less common. For example, the reduced form of past tense walked would be , which is phonologically identical to the present tense form walk. Therefore, such reductions are less common than the reductions in words such as desk or post.

Consonant cluster reduction can also be found in varieties of American Indian English, as well. Penfield (1976) provides data from the Colorado River Indian Reservation in Parker, Arizona that show that speakers of English in this area (the data are from members of the Mohave, Hopi, and Navajo tribes) drop the final stop in a cluster, particularly when the cluster invovles a nasal and a stop. Therefore, words like equipment (SAE ), understand (SAE ), and student (SAE ) would be pronounced as , , , respectively.

Leap (1976) also describes a similar phenomenon in Isleta English, a variety spoken among members of the Isletan Tiwa group. In that group, the second consonant of a final consonant cluster is dropped (contest (SAE ) -> ).

Background

Smitherman (X) takes cluster reduction as evidence for a West African source for African-American English features. She notes that many West African languages do not allow complex clusters.


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