The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 11/14 - Iris Berent (Northeastern University)

Presenter: Iris Berent (Northeastern University) 
Title: Amodal Phonology
Date/Time: Wednesday, November 14, 5:00-6:30pm
Location: 32-D831

This talk evaluates the hypothesis that the phonological grammar is algebraic and amodal. The first part of the talk examines the computational properties of the phonological grammar. Using the restrictions on doubling as a case study, I show that doubling restrictions generalize across the board. Such generalizations are evident in both spoken and signed language phonology, and they require algebraic rules.

In the second part of the talk, I turn to show that the restrictions on doubling are demonstrably dissociable from the phonetic system. I first show that a single linguistic stimulus (e.g. panana) elicits conflicting responses (preference vs. aversion), depending on the level of analysis (phonology vs. morphology). I next show that speakers with no command of a sign language spontaneously project these two parses to novel ABB signs in American Sign language. Moreover, the chosen parse (for signs) is constrained by the morphology of their spoken language. Together, these findings demonstrate that (i) a single, invariant phonetic form can elicit conflicting linguistic parses; whereas (ii) a linguistic parse can remain invariant when the phonetic substance is radically altered – from speech to signs.

These results suggest that doubling in speech and signs is constrained by a single set of linguistic principles that are amodal, algebraic and abstract.