and also please guide me how to acquire such information from online linguistics resources (for example WALS.info).

  • 1
    I think Persian counts, unless you consider consonant + semivowel sequences to be clusters. EDIT: But you seem to be familiar with Persian already... Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 2:16
  • Yes Persian is one of them
    – Houman
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 2:21
  • The only WALS map that I think would be relevant is Syllable Structure and it does not show any Indo-European languages with simple syllable structure. Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 2:23
  • As already mentioned, Persian does not allow it. Therefore, you will hear some familiar words prefixed with an e-, especially loans. Unfortunately, I am not aware of such resources online to write a full answer. Let me have a look at it first.
    – Midas
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 8:09
  • @sumelic. This is because they define "simple" too narrowly. Persian does in fact have only single consonants in initial position, but in medial position it allows up to three consonants in succession.
    – fdb
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 20:02

1 Answer 1


Modern Persian is known for this, hence Isfahan from earlier Spāhān, and I assume some other related Iranian languages share this phonotactic constraint.

Western Romance languages have tendencies against initial st-, sp-, sk-, similar to Persian (and Turkish). Thus they have typically inserted e- (and many even drop the -s- in writing or speech, see for example the descendants of Latin schola), Ladino, Walloon and Sardinian go both ways. Some Eastern Romance dialects changed or change s- into ʃ- before some consonants, similar to High German.

We should make a distinction between tendencies and real constraints, for example modern borrowings into French do preserve the clusters in words like psychologie, xylophone, sphère and so on. Likewise the English rules for loans are a bit looser, whereas Spanish is stricter, but like English it breaks with the written form even in prescriptive use.

Every language has some tendencies ie frequencies and it is hard to know all regional spoken variations, but Slavic, Baltic, Germanic, Armenian, Celtic, Albanian, Hellenic are mostly happy with consonant clusters (although Greek has no ʃ and thus no t͡ʃ, German has no ʒ and thus no d͡ʒ and so on, and of course German has ʃt- but no st- in native words).

So my sense is that simple binary categorisation is not possible, and the remaining candidates are other Indo-Iranian languages, or non-Romance creoles or mixed languages with strong influence from Western Romance.

One method to check initial patterns is to seek in the dictionary, for example en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Index:Scottish_Gaelic/s#st, being sure to check the IPA pronunciation as languages like English and Spanish do not necessarily pronounce these even when written.

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