The Adaptation of English Initial Clusters by Persian Learners

Document Type: Research Paper


1 Associate Professor Yazd University, Yazd

2 M. A., TFEL Yazd University, Yazd

3 M. A., Theoritical Linguistics Teacher Education College of Yazd

4 Professor Shanghai International Studies University


This study presents an overview of the different strategies that Persian learners of English employ to deal with initial clusters. While vowel epenthesis appears to be the most widespread repair strategy to conform such clusters to Persian phonotactics, the location of the epenthetic vowel varies. In this paper, we investigate two approaches that seek to explain the epenthetic site. The first of these, based on the Sonority Sequencing Principle, does not offer a plausible account, in particular with respect to the repair of s + sonorant clusters. The second approach, based on Fleischhacker (2001, 2005), argues that the epenthetic site is based on maximal perceptual similarity between input and output. An experiment with Persian listeners is reported which confirms the crucial role of perceptual similarity. Finally, we cast this approach into an Optimality Theory framework, which will be seen to make the right predictions for words with triconsonantal clusters.