What are consonant clusters? Give examples

Consonant clusters

The Consonant clusters (also Consonant accumulation) in linguistics refers to the sequence of two or more consonant phonemes. So it is in the German language with the phoneme sequence / ʃpr / in the word language around a consonant cluster.

The consonant clusters that are allowed in a particular language follow certain rules. These are described in the phonological sub-discipline, phonotactics, and accordingly called phonotactic rules.

Orthography of certain consonant phoneme combinations in the German language

Writing and sound levels are often not kept apart in everyday understanding. Some connections of consonant phonemes in the German language do not appear as connections of consonants on the graphematic level.

With the consonant letters x or. z it is a consonant cluster of the two consonant phonemes / k / and / s / or / t / and / s /. In this case, the phonetic connection / ks / is represented by a graph, i.e. H. by a letter, namely x the phonetic connection / ts / represented by the grapheme z.

For such consonant phoneme clusters, which correspond to only one grapheme, there is currently no fixed term (in analogy to di-, trigraphs, etc., see below). Sometimes consonant phoneme combinations of plosive and fricative are called homorgane or heterorgane affricates.

The German word with the longest consonant sequence is Sweat of fear with 8 consonants in a row. If one also takes into account words with vowel-spoken consonants, then becomes Sweat of fear of March rhythm exceeded by two consonants.


While the term consonant cluster is a sequence of consonantsphonemes the German term Konsonantenhäufung is sometimes used to describe the succession of two consonantsletters, d. H. To name multi-graphs that actually only correspond to a single phoneme. An example of this is the word You're welcome, pronounced / ˈbɪtə /. The rules on the basis of which the word You're welcome is written with a double consonant, among other things, are examined in graphic art.

  • Example: to sing. At ng it is a question of two consecutive consonant letters or consonant graphs. These form a graphematic "consonant accumulation" (consonant letter accumulation or consonant graph accumulation) in German. This sound connection corresponds in this case to a single sound (the phoneme / ŋ /), i.e. In other words, this is not a consonant cluster in the actual (phonetic) sense of the word, but a digraph.

In the case of clusters of letters that only correspond to a single phoneme (consonant or vowel phoneme), one generally speaks of multi-graphs.

Depending on the number of letters used to make up a single phoneme, i.e. h to represent a single sound is called di- or trigraph.

Examples of German di- or trigraphs:

  • sch corresponds to the phoneme / ʃ / in the word Schule.
  • ph corresponds to the phoneme / f / in the word Graphem.
  • pp corresponds to the phoneme / p / in the word Lappen.
  • ie corresponds to the phoneme / iː / in the word L.iebe.
  • ch corresponds to the phoneme / x / in the word Bach.