I’ve been reading a lot about the ‘psychological reality’ of phonotactic constraints lately. Something that’s puzzling me is the diversity of on-line repair strategies for constraint violations. In particular, for phontactically illegal clusters, sometimes epenthesis is observed (e.g., Japanese listeners perceive ebzo as ebuzo; Dupoux and colleagues), and other times consonants are altered (e.g., /dl/->/gl/ for French speakers; Halle and colleagues).
My question is why such diversity is observed–that is, what triggers the different repair strategies. N.B. I’m not expecting a single strategy to be used; I will place my hand on the good book (P&S 1993) and swear an oath to “homogeneity of target, heterogeneity of process.”
In a recent paper, Kabak + Idsardi argued that perceptual epenthesis is driven by syllable structure constraints, not by consonantal contact. So, for a cluster C1C2, it is the ill-formedness of C1 in coda that drives epenthesis, not the contact of C1.C2. In fact, they argue (based on confusion data) that no epenthesis occurs when there’s simply a syllable contact violation (*C1.C2).
This accounts for their data as well as the Dupoux et al. results; however in many other cases a “contact” violation does trigger ‘epenthesis.’ In production, Lisa Davidson’s shown that onset clusters violating English phonotactic constraints are repaired not by changing the consonants but by altering the temporal relationship of the gestures (not true epenthesis, which is why I used the scare quotes above). Perhaps more directly comparable to K+I, Berent et al. have shown perceptual epenthesis (i.e., confusions between lbif and lebif).
And of course epenthesis is not the only way to fix clusters. Lots of other studies have shown perceptual confusions between featurally similar clusters (e.g., */dl/-/gl/)–e.g., Moreton in English.
Any thoughts on this? What’s driving the heterogeneity of processes?