Saturday, 17 October 2009

Wha is a consonnat cluster?

In the previous class we saw whath consonant clusters are, as well as its possible combinations and reductions, too.

In my opinion the class was very clear, but as we can see consonant clusters cause problems for us whose firts language (Spanish) does not allow so many consonants together without intervening vowel sounds.

Here you are a little bbit more information about that:

What is a consonant cluster?


A consonant cluster is a group or sequence of consonants that appear together in a syllable without a vowel between them.


Here are some examples of consonant clusters:

  • \sp\ and \ts\ in the word spots
  • \spr\ in the word spray


It is important to distinguish between consonant clusters and digraphs with which they are often confused. In contrast to a consonant cluster, a digraph is a group of two or more symbols which really stand for just one sound (usually a consonant).

For example, in the word ship, the two letters "s" and "h" together represent the single consonant [ʃ]. Also note a combination digraph and cluster as seen in "lightning" with three terms: and ; or "length:


In the word chat, the letters c and h appear contiguously but are not a consonant cluster, even though both are separate consonants in other contexts (cat; hat). In this instance, ch is a digraph because the ch sequence represents a single sound in the underlying English sound system.

Consonant clusters or blends, are the names given to two or three consonants that appear together in a word. Each consonant retains its sound when blended. The term cluster refers to the written form and the term blend refers to the spoken form.

Consonant blends that appear at the beginning of a word, are referred to as InitialConsonant Blends or beginning blends, and those that appear at the end of a word are referred toas Final Consonant Blends or end blends.

Consonant clusters consist of four major categories:

· r-clusters

· s-clusters

· l-clusters

· 3 letter clusters

You can teach beginning consonant clusters as soon as children have learnt the single consonant sound-spellings.

r-blends: br, cr, dr, fr, gr, pr, tr,

s-blends: sc, sk, sl, sm, sn, sp, st, sw,

l-blends: bl, cl, fl, gl, pl.

3 letter blends: str, spr thr, chr, phr, shr. The consonant clusters thr, chr, phr, shr, are made up of a consonant digraph and a consonant.

Ending blends: ct, ft, ld, lp, lt, mp, nd, nk, nt, pt, rd, rk, sk, sp, st (teach these last)

Consonant Digraphs: consist of two consonants that when blended make one sound: sh, ch, th, wh, ph, gh, ng

Exceptions: The consonant blend sc can stand for the /sk/ sound as in scare or the /c/ can be silent as in science. Also, the consonant cluster ck represents one sound - /k/.

English consonant cluster reductions

S-cluster reduction is the dropping of /s/ from the initial consonant clusters with voiceless plosives (environments /sp/, /st/, and /sk(ʷ)/) occurring in Caribbean English. After the initial /s/ is removed, the plosive is aspirated in the new word-initial environment, resulting in pronunciations such as:


→ 'pit


→ [ˈpʰɪt])


→ 'tomach


→ [ˈtʰɐmək])


→ 'pen


→ [ˈpʰɛn]) (also affected by final consonant cluster reduction)


→ 'queeze


→ [ˈkʰwiz])

Final consonant cluster reduction is the nonstandard reduction of final consonant clusters in English occuring in African American Vernacular English and Caribbean English.

Examples are:


→ tes'


→ [tʰɛs])


→ des'


→ [ˈdɛs])


→ han'


→ [ˈhæn])


→ sen'


→ [ˈsɛn])


→ lef'


→ [ˈlɛf])


→ was'


→ [ˈwɑːs])

The plural of test and desk become tesses and desses by the same English rule that gives us plural messes from singular mess.

English consonant cluster reductions - Plum-plumb merger

The plum-plumb merger is the reduction of the final cluster /mb/ to /m/ that occurs in all dialects of present English. In early Middle English, words spelt with mb like plumb, lamb etc. had the cluster /mb/.

Consonant clusters in English

In English, the longest possible initial cluster is three terms, as in split /ˈsplɪt/; the longest possible final cluster is four terms, as in twelfths /ˈtwɛlfθs/, bursts /ˈbɜrsts/ and glimpsed /ˈɡlɪmpst/.

I hope this information could be useful for you, however here are the links I used to the previous information.


  1. Thanks for your post, Alejandra. It's interesting to see the examples of reductions in some accents of English. We'll be looking at reductions in the next unit, and later on we'll also take a closer look at regional variations of English.

    It would be very useful if you could include the exact links that you used to find out about consonant clusters, as the current links only show the main pages of the websites.

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