The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Issue of Monday, November 24th, 2014

Phonology Circle 11/24 - Angela Carpenter

Speaker: Angela Carpenter, Wellesley College
Title: Learning of a Natural and Unnatural Stress Pattern by Older Children
Date: Nov. 24 (M)
Time: 5-6:30
Location: 32D-461

Recent research into adult learning of natural and unnatural pairs of artificial languages has demonstrated that it is easier to learn a phonological rule that is based on naturalness in language than a similar, but unnatural, version of the same rule. This effect has been seen in a variety of phonological research (e.g. (Moreton 2008; Pater & Tessier 2005; Zhang & Lai 2010). Research in the area of infants’ learning of natural and unnatural phonology (Gerken & Bollt 2008; Seidl & Buckley 2005), has provided mixed results regarding the infants’ ability to learn natural and unnatural patterns of phonology. There has been little work done with older children to investigate whether they exhibit a learning bias that favors natural phonological patterns over unnatural ones.

The present study focuses on English-speaking older children’s learning of a natural and unnatural version of a stress rule based on vowel height. Previous research has shown that both English-speaking and French-speaking adults are able to more accurately learn a natural phonological rule where stress occurs on a low vowel than when stress occurs on a high vowel (Carpenter 2010). A study of how older children learn natural and unnatural stress patterns is important as it bridges the gap between infants and adults, allows comparison with both groups, and perhaps may shed some insight on the interaction between a general cognition, which allows learning of patterns in many areas, and a language-specific one, which perhaps bias learning of a natural pattern over an unnatural one.

Carpenter, Angela. 2010. A naturalness bias in learning stress. Phonology 27. 345-92.
Gerken, LouAnn & Alex Bollt. 2008. Three exemplars allow at least some linguistic generalizations: Implication for generalization mechanism and constraints. Language Learning and Development 4. 228-48.
Moreton, Elliott. 2008. Analytic bias and phonological typology. Phonology 25. 83-127.
Pater, Joe & Anne-Michelle Tessier. 2005. Phonotactics and alternations: Testing the connection with artificial language learning. UMOP 31: Papers in Experimental Phonetics and Phonology, ed. by S. Kawahara. Amherst, MA: GLSA.
Seidl, Amanda & Eugene Buckley. 2005. On the learning of arbitrary phonological rules. Language Learning and Development 1. 289-316.
Zhang, Jie & Yuwen Lai. 2010. Testing the role of phonetic knowledge in Mandarin tone sandhi. Phonology 27. 153-201.

Lieber co-author of LSA award-winning morphology reference

Con-grat-ul(?)-at-ion-s to our alum Rochelle Lieber (PhD 1980), and to her co-authors Laurie Bauer and Ingo Plag, whose book The Oxford Reference Guide to English Morphology has just been honored with the Leonard Bloomfield Book Award by the Linguistic Society of America! Shelly Lieber is Professor of Linguistics at the University of New Hampshire.

Syntax Square 11/25 - Ted Levin & Coppe van Urk

Speakers: Ted Levin and Coppe van Urk
Title: Austronesian voice as extraction marking
Date/Time:Tuesday, Nov. 25, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

One major question within Austronesian syntax concerns the relationship between Voice marking, case, and extraction, which (commonly) display a one-to-one correspondence. Broadly, two approaches are employed to capture these correlations: (i) Voice morphology marks case and extraction via (wh-)agreement (e.g. Chung 1994; Richards 2000; Pearson 2001), (ii) Voice morphology determines case and extraction via changes in argument structure (e.g. Guilfoyle et al. 1992; Aldridge 2004; Legate 2012). Under a deterministic view of Voice morphology, dissociations of voice and case/extraction are unexpected. In this talk, we present two systems that display such dissociations, supporting the case/extraction-marking analysis of Voice (i). We present a concrete proposal for Voice as extraction marking that explains its effects on case.