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Clusters are often simplified by the process of feature synthesis. This occurs when the phonetic characteristics of one segment of the cluster are combined with the phonetic characteristics of the other segment, thereby yielding just one new single segment. Consider the following.

 

smoke

/sməʊk/

[m̥əʊk]

 

In this example, the voicelessness of the initial /s/in the cluster is combined with the bilabiality and nasality of the /m/ to produce the single voiceless bilabial nasal [m̥], i.e.

coalescence in clusters example 1

Here is another example that demonstrates the mutual influence (reciprocal assimilation) between segments in a syllable-initial cluster:

 

swing

/swɪŋ/

[ɸɪŋ]

 

Here, the voicelessness and frication of the initial /s/ is combined with the bilabial place of articulation of the immediately following /w/ to yield the single voiceless bilabial fricative [ɸ]. [This sound is rather like the noise made when blowing a kiss: the lips are rounded and protruded, and one then blows gently through the pursed lips.] This process may be summarized as follows.

 

coalescence in clusters example 2

 

There are many examples of feature synthesis. The defining characteristic of each is the combination of the features of one segment with those of another to yield a single segment. Here are two further examples that should help to consolidate our understanding of this process in clusters.

 

coalescence in clusters example 3

 

 

coalescence in clusters example 4

 

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