The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 3/14 - Boer Fu (MIT)

Speaker: Boer Fu (MIT)
Title: UR Underlearning of Mandarin Tone 3 Sandhi Words
Time: Monday, March 14th, 5pm – 6:30pm

Abstract: The process of tone 3 sandhi in Mandarin Chinese results in a case of neutralization. Words with the tonal UR of /T3 T3/ and those with /T2 T3/ are both pronounced as [T2 T3] in the SR. This leads to a phonological learning question: can speakers of Mandarin learn the correct /T3 T3/ UR from the [T2 T3] SR? In order to find out which UR speakers have learned for disyllabic words with [T2 T3] SR, I have developed a forced AABB reduplication diagnostic, in which /T2 T3/ and /T3 T3/ words have different reduplicated forms. A survey of the judgement of six speakers has shown that certain disyllabic words listed as “T3 T3” in the dictionary are prone to being “underlearned” as /T2 T3/ by speakers. Specifically, compositionally opaque “T3 T3” words with an available T2 alternative are the ones likely to be “underlearned” as /T2 T3/. The Mandarin data suggest that not only do speakers require evidence from morphophonological alternation to learn phonological mapping, but also that the alternation has to be identifiable by the learner.