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The longitudinal development of clusters in French*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 October 2008

Brown University, Providence, USA
Brown University, Providence, USA
Address for correspondence: Katherine Demuth, Department of Cognitive & Linguistic Sciences, Brown University, 190 Thayer Street, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, United States. e-mail:


Studies of English and German find that children tend to acquire word-final consonant clusters before word-initial consonant clusters. This order of acquisition is generally attributed to articulatory, frequency and/or morphological factors. This contrasts with recent experimental findings from French, where two-year-olds were better at producing word-initial than word-final clusters (Demuth & Kehoe, 2006). The purpose of the present study was to examine French-speaking children's longitudinal acquisition of clusters to determine if these results replicate developmentally. Analysis of spontaneous speech productions from two French-speaking children between one and three years confirmed the earlier acquisition of initial clusters, even when sonority factors were controlled. The findings suggest that French-speaking children acquire complexity at the beginnings of words before complexity appears word-finally. The role of frequency, morphological, structural and input factors is discussed.

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We thank Harriet Jisa and other members of Dynamique du Langage at Lyon 2 for data collection and transcription of the Lyon Corpus. We also thank Matthew Adamo, Jennifer Culbertson, Christelle Dodane and Christophe dos Santos for research assistance, and Jae Yung Song for discussion. Funding for this research was supported in part by NIH Grant #R0IMH60922 to the first author.


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