Wednesday, November 30, 2011

COOL Newsletter: Fall 2011 Volume 2, Issue 2

All the news that's fit to print! Find out about the most recent accomplishments of the COOL project (Cayuga: Our Oral Legacy). The COOL project's aims are "to increase the number of Cayuga speakers, fluency levels, and the number and variety of contexts in which Cayuga is spoken."   

More information available here.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Seminar Series Talk by Eric Acton, November 24

We are pleased to have Eric Acton (a PhD student at Stanford University) in town on November 24th to give us "That straight talk": Demonstratives, solidarity, and Sarah Palin. (Co-authored with Christopher Potts). All are welcome to attend. Time:  3:30. Location: SN 2098. 


Sarah Palin’s manner of speaking has been the subject of both fervent praise and impassioned criticism.  Supporters find Palin’s speech to beaccessible, engaging, and “real” while opponents label her manner ofspeaking presumptuous, inauthentic, and “pseudo-folksy.” This talk focuses on one salient feature of Palin’s speech—namely, that characteristic use ofdemonstratives, as in the quote below from the 2008 vice-presidentialdebate:
 (1)   Americans are craving that straight talk. 
Echoing Lakoff (1974), Liberman (2008, 2010) claims that such “affective demonstratives…carry an emotional as well as demonstrative load,” byimplying a degree of “shared familiarity” between interlocutors.  In thistalk, I will present the results of two corpus-based experiments that speakto this claim.  The first, based on users’ responses to posts on a socialmedia web site, provides quantitative support for the notion thatdemonstratives can foster or manufacture a sense of familiarity, empathy,and solidarity.  The second examines the 2008 vice-presidential debate,showing that Palin used demonstratives at a much higher rate than heropponent, Joe Biden.  The results of the study further suggest that Palin’suse of demonstratives was part of a broader stylistic approach for engagingand aligning with her audience.The talk concludes by reflecting on how Palin’s use of demonstratives mayhelp to explain why her speech is so polarizing.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sara Mackenzie To Give Upcoming Seminar Series Talk

When: November 17th at 3:30pm
Location: SN 2098

on the topic of

Contrast and phonological similarity: evidence from consonant harmony
This talk argues that phonological similarity is evaluated over contrastive, phonological features. Evidence for this position is provided through analyses of consonant harmony processes. Typological studies of consonant harmony (Hansson, 2001, 2010; Rose and Walker, 2004) have shown that similarity plays a role in consonant harmony patterning with only highly similar segments interacting as targets and triggers. In this talk, two types of cases provide evidence that the relevant properties determining interacting segments are contrastive phonological representations. In one type of case (e.g. Bumo Izon), segments that appear to share a phonetic class with participating segments fail to participate in harmony. In the second type of case (e.g. Dholuo and Anywa), consonant harmony patterns differ between languages with similar phonetic inventories. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

POSTPONED: Yvan Rose To Give Upcoming Seminar Series talk

New Date TBA

Join us on December 1st in SN 2098 at 3:30 when Yvan Rose will speak on:

Categorical Development in Child Language: Some Preliminary Results


Vihman & Croft (2007) propose a (radical) templatic approach to phonological development, whereby children build prosodic templates from phonetic evidence available in their target languages. At the centre of this proposal is an outright rejection of features as independent categories in phonological representations. Building on earlier work by Levelt & van Oostendorp (2007), I reject this (radical) claim, and argue for the need for features in phonological development. Building on an early research project on the parallel development of consonants and consonant clusters, I present data from child Catootje (from the CLPF Dutch acquisition corpus). Categorical behaviours are noted, all of which suggest a central role for features in segmental development.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Department of Linguistics


Dr. David Crystal

Renowned linguist Dr. David Crystal, who will receive an honorary degree at Memorial’s fall 2011 convocation ceremonies. He will also speak on the topic of:

Language Death: Writing the Obituary of Languages?

Half the languages of the world will die out within the next century. This talk reviews the way languages are dying, asks why, and then asks what can be done. It presents the arguments why people should be concerned, drawing a parallel with other ecological domains. For less academic occasions, such as literary festivals, the talk includes extracts from literature, and also from David Crystal's play 'Living On', which dramatizes the endangered language situation.  Time: 90 minutes.

DATE: Thursday, October 20th

TIME: 3:30 – 5:00 p.m.


Reception to follow

Monday, September 19, 2011

Guest Speaker: Will Oxford, University of Toronto

We are pleased to welcome back Will Oxford on September 29 at 12:00 (noon) in SN 2064! He will be speaking on ""Patterns of contrast in Algonquian vowel systems". All are welcome to attend. 


This presentation examines the historical development of Algonquian vowel systems from the perspective of contrastive underspecification.  The presentation is based on a survey of all major vowel changes across the Algonquian family (approximately 20 languages and 50 changes).  I will propose that Algonquian vowel systems fall into two basic contrastive types: (1) a place-based system found in Proto-Algonquian, the Central languages, and Blackfoot, and (2) a height-based system found in the Eastern languages, Cheyenne, and Arapaho-Atsina. Two striking but apparently unnoticed pan-Algonquian generalizations correspond with these contrastive types. The first generalization involves the merger of /e/, which has occurred in several Algonquian languages. In all languages with the place-based system,
/e/ merges with /i/, while in all languages with the height-based system, /e/ merges with /a/. The second generalization involves the development of innovative palatalization processes. In languages with the place-based system, palatalization always includes /i/ as a trigger, while languages with the height-based system repeatedly develop palatalization processes that are triggered by /e/ but not by /i/ (a typological oddity).  I will show how the contrastive model of phonological change attributes both of these correspondences to a common source, thus giving us a new insight into the underlying phonological structure of Algonquian.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Photos from Seminar Series Fall 2011

Thanks to all those who attended our first seminar series talks on September 9, 2011. Remember that all future talks will now take place on Thursdays at 3:30. Check back here for announcements regarding the next speakers and topics.

Mattias Hofmman: Mainland Canadian English Phonology in Newfoundland
Jennifer Thorburn: Co-Variation and the Linguistic Individual

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Osama Omari's PhD Defense

Osama will defend his dissertation, titled "Grammatical Subjects of Jordanian Arabic: Syntactic Discourse and Functions" on Friday, September 2, 2011 at 1:00 pm in IIC 2014. The examination is open to the public. Break a leg, Osama!

Ahmad Assiri's PhD Defense

Ahmad will defend his dissertation, titled "Arabic Adjectival Phrases: An Agree-Based Approach" on Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 12:00 pm in IIC 2014. The examination is open to the public. We wish him the best of luck!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Visiting Graduate Student

Welcome to Matthias Hoffman, a German PhD student currently working at MUSL. Matthias is in St. John's collecting data for his dissertation on "Contemporary Urban St. John's English". If you are interested in participating in his project or know someone who is, please contact him via his project website.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fall 2011 Seminar Series

We'll kick off the new semester with a double-header on September 9, 4pm in SN 3060, featuring the doctoral research projects of our own Jennifer Thorburn and visiting student, Matthias Hoffman.

Matthias Hofmann
PhD Candidate, Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany
Title: "Mainland Canadian English Phonology in Newfoundland: Linguistic Change reflecting Economic Change?"


Recent discovery of offshore oil has fundamentally changed the province of Newfoundland, Canada, from a poor cousin of the Canadian mainland to that of a ‘have’ province in terms of economy and education among others (Clarke 2010a: 132). As a consequence, the creation of new jobs and the need for developing Newfoundland’s infrastructure are accompanied by a dramatic change of the linguistic system. Investigating and contributing to knowledge of rapid linguistic changes as they occur is rare and hence important to analyze in the sociolinguistic tradition. This paper presents an investigation of a linguistic variable that has been identified as relevant to change in a North American context (particularly Canadian Shift) and for being innovative in Newfoundland English: the vowel in the DRESS lexical set.

Audio recordings from earlier research constitute the pilot study data, stratified by age, gender, and religion. The data set consists of 4 informants interviewed in Pouch Cove, NL, by members of the community. Pouch Cove has been a traditional outport community, which is currently changing towards a bedroom community of St. John’s, similarly to Petty Harbour (Van Herk, Childs & Thorburn, 2007).

As for the variable investigated, /ɛ/ is raised in areas settled by conservative speakers of southeast Irish origin such as St. John’s (Clarke 2010b). The NL instantiation of the Canadian Shift (Boberg, 2010, Clarke et al. 1995, Labov, Ash & Boberg 2006), on the other hand, results in a change in vowel quality in the opposite direction.

Results from the current study suggest a tendency for especially younger females to use a low mid /ɛ/ in the DRESS lexical set most frequently in careful speech.


Boberg, Charles (2010). The English language in Canada : status, history, and comparative analysis. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Bucholtz, M., Bermuda, N., Fung, V., Edwards, L. & Vargas, R. (2007). "Hella Nor Cal or Totally So Cal?: The Preceptual Dialectology of California. Journal of English Linguistics 35(3): 325-352.

Clarke, Sandra (2010a). Newfoundland and Labrador English. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Clarke, Sandra (2010b). Newfoundland and Labrador English. In Schreier, D. (Ed.), The Lesser-Known Varieties of English: An Introduction. New York: Cambridge University Press. 72-91.

Clarke, Sandra, Elms, Ford & Youssef, Amani (1995). The third dialect of English: Some Canadian evidence. Language Variation and Change 7(2): 209-228.

Labov, William, Ash, Sharon & Boberg, Charles (2006). The atlas of North American English : phonetics, phonology, and sound change : a multimedia reference tool. Berlin ; New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Preston, Dennis Richard & Long, Daniel (1999). Handbook of perceptual dialectology. Amsterdam ; Philadelphia: J. Benjamins.

Van Herk, Gerard, Childs, Becky & Thorburn, Jennifer (2007). Identity Marking and Affiliation in an Urbanizing Newfoundland Community. In Cichocki, W. (Ed.), 31st Annual Meeting of the Atlantic Provinces Linguistic Association/31e Colloque annuel de l'Association de linguistique des provinces atlantiques. Fredericton NB, Canada. 85-94.

Jennifer Thorburn
PhD Candidate, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Testing speaker consistency across sociolinguistic variables


Although sociolinguists often examine multiple variables in a particular community, correlations between variables are not often examined statistically. Following Guy's (2009) work on stable co-variables in Brazilian Portuguese and Tagliamonte and Waters' (2010) analysis of changes in progress in Toronto English, this paper investigates the notion of saliency and co-variability, to determine if salient covariables correlate with one another and/or show negative correlations with their nonsalient counterparts. To do so, I examine four sociolinguistic variables in data from Nain, an Inuit community in Labrador: verbal -s (I loves it), interdental stopping in voiced (them pronounced as dem) and voiceless (thing as ting) contexts, and adjectival intensification (right, very, really, so, etc.). The nonstandard variants of verbal -s and interdental stopping are often employed in identity work in Newfoundland (Van Herk et al. 2007, 2008) and are considered enregistered features of the dialect (Clarke and Hiscock 2009); adjectival intensification, in contrast, has received less attention in these discussions, though Clarke (2010) notes that the variant right is one of the trademark intensifiers of Newfoundland and Labrador English. (The other intensifier associated with the province, some, appears only twice in the Nain data and is consequently excluded from this study.)

Pearson correlation coefficients were calculated for an age- and sex-stratified sample of 25 residents for all pairs of variables, based on each speaker’s factor weight for the variants most associated with the regional dialect. While there are no significant correlations for the community as a whole, the data suggest that some salient variables correlate, at least for certain speaker groups.

Friday, August 19, 2011

From dialect feature to local identity marker: Converging patterns of verbal –s in two Newfoundland communities

Date: Wednesday August 24, 2011
Time: 12:00-1:00 p.m.
Location: FM-2006 (sociolinguistics lab)

Feel free to bring your lunch or snacks to share!

A Brown Bag Talk


Susanne Wagner, Chemnitz University of Technology

Gerard Van Herk, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Recent research in Pouch Cove (Wagner) and Petty Harbour (Van Herk et al.) has revealed unexpected linguistic behaviours that challenge standard sociolinguistic wisdom. In Pouch Cove, middle-aged speakers have the highest rates of use of non-standard forms, and in Petty Harbour, young speakers are reversing the linguistic constraints on choice of verb form. In both cases, these findings go against 40 years of results from communities worldwide, and in both cases, the findings have been challenged when presented at scholarly meetings.

In this paper, we reconfigure the data from both studies to permit parallel analyses. These analyses support and reinforce the earlier findings, but they also help to explain them. The two communities, thanks to their distinct social, geographic, and economic profiles, are at different points along a change continuum between traditional Newfoundland speech and an urbanized, performative variety.

(709) 864-8343

Friday, August 12, 2011

Curling, ghosts, and Newfoundland: constraints on null subjects

DATE : Monday August 15, 2011
TIME : 12:00-1:00 p.m.
LOCATION : FM-2006 (sociolinguistics lab)

Chemnitz University of Technology

It is a well-known fact that English allows the omission of pronominal subjects in speech,
resulting in utterances such as Ø Told you so or Ø Looks like rain. While different from pro-drop
in pro-drop languages such as Russian or Italian, studies have shown that the mechanisms
governing the “deletion” of these pronouns are very similar to the processes involved in pro-
drop (see e.g. Harvie 1998, Haegeman 1990). However, not all instances of non-overt subject
pronouns can be considered typical. Consider e.g.

A: Did you ever work in (place name)?
B: Ø Never worked in (place name).
Ø Ø Not really into scary movies, just comedy movies mostly.
Ø Had a bad stomach, she used to rub my stomach.

In this talk, I will focus on null first person subjects. The processes and peculiarities
involved in recovering over 300 “deleted” instances of I and we in relation to over 8,000 overt
pronouns will be discussed. Statistical regression analyses show that factors influencing
presence/absence of pronouns do not only include those previously discussed in literature on
pro-drop languages, but also features such as VP length which are known to have an impact on
subject realisation in first language acquisition. Moreover, the data show possible persistence
effects to be at work, with one null subject favouring another in the next subject slot.

Overall, the analyses suggest that factors from a number of disciplines,
including morphosyntax, discourse theory and sociolinguistics, as well as various theoretical
frameworks (formal and functional schools) and stages of acquisition/competence (first,
second, adult language) should be considered when discussing null subjects in English.

Feel free to bring your lunch!
(709) 864-8343

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Matt Hunt Gardner Returns

Matt Hunt Gardner (MUSL alumnus) will give a talk on June 28, 2011 from 12-1 pm in the Sociolinguistics Lab (FM-2006). Feel free to bring your lunch! Here's what the talk is about:

Matt Hunt Gardner

University of Toronto

Slit Fricatives in Cape Breton English

Focusing on methodology, this presentation reports results from two preliminary investigations of slit fricative production/use among speakers from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. The first study examines acoustic and articulatory qualities of this sound and aims to determine what qualities, if any, differentiate slit fricatives from other coronal fricatives and stops. The results are compared with similar studies in other communities in which slit fricatives have been attested. The second study examines what internal linguistic factors may constrain the use of slit fricatives among young speakers and uses new statistical methods to argue that two systems (traditional and novel) for slit fricatives use may exist within the same generation in the community.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

PhD student talks

Linguistics Department


Case-Reservation in the analysis of the Indirect Attribute adjectives.

Presented by

Ahmad Assiri, Ph.D. Graduate Student


Subjects and Subject Clitics in Embedded Clauses in Jordanian Arabic

Presented by

Osama Omari, Ph.D. Graduate Student

All are welcome to bring their lunch

DATE: Tuesday, May 24, 2011

TIME: 12:00 – 1:30 pm


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Seminar Series, April 1

The final talk in the W2011 Seminar Series is April 1 (4-5pm, in SN 4073). Vit Bubenik will be speaking on:

" On the Rise of Ergative Alignment in Indo-Aryan Languages"
There are several assumptions regarding the origins of the ergative construction in New Indo-Aryan languages: (i) passive-to-ergative reanalysis, (ii) the ergative hypothesis, i.e. that the passive construction of Old Indo-Aryan was already ergative, and a compromise stance that neither (i) nor (ii) are fully adequate. Most recently attention has been paid to various pathways in which typological changes operate over different kinds of nominal constituents (nouns versus pronouns) in a 'contingency view of alignment' (Dixon 1994, Haig 2008). I will argue that the Late Middle Indo-Aryan texts offer us a unique opportunity for our analysis of the ergative reorganization of an earlier nominative-accusative system of Sanskrit and early Prakrits in the framework of Construction Grammar exploiting the notions of markedness shift, morphological economy and long-term morphosyntactic change.

All are welcome! Reception to follow!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Seminar Series, March 25

Our next talk in the W2011 Seminar Series is Friday, March 25. Degif Banksara will be speaking on: "Against Mobile Morphemes". More details of this talk are found below. All are welcome!

Time: 4-5pm
Location: SN 4073

Against Mobile Morphemes

Degif Banskara

Chaha, one of the Semitic languages of Ethiopia, displays morphemes (e.g., the impersonal subject) that are sometimes expressed by labialization, palatalization or both (Polotsky 1951, Lelau 1967, Hetzron 1971, Banksira 2000). These processes affect phonemes that are located at various positions in a word. Due to this, the language has been considered to have ‘mobile morphemes’ (McCarthy 1983, Akinlabi 1996, Rose 1997, Piggott 2000). The two main characteristics of such morphemes are that i) their phonological content is less than a full segment – it is a feature or bundle of features – and ii) the position of these features is variable. In this presentation, I will argue that the so-called mobile morphemes of Chaha do not satisfy any of these conditions and that Chaha in fact does not have mobile morphemes at all.

From an empirical point of view, I will present data showing that the phonological signals of the putative mobile morphemes are not necessarily mobile nor less than a full segment – they sometimes surface as independent segments and their position is fixed. This is shown in (1a) where the impersonal suffix surfaces independently and occupies a fixed position like any other fixed suffix such as (1b).

(1) a. čənə-wi-m


One came.

(1) b. čənə-čɨ-m


She came.

I will then propose that the independent and fixed -wi of (1a) is the output of morphology even in cases where mobility is at issue. This output of morphology, namely the underlying /-wi/ is submitted to phonological rules which may give rise to mobile phonological features depending on the nature of the stem. In other words, in addition to establishing dominance relations between morphemes, morphology establishes a fixed precedence relationship between them, this relationship is asymmetric, namely if ‘a precedes b’ is true then the inverse is not. However, phonological rules may alter this asymmetry by manipulating the phonological features associated with /-wi/ without manipulating their morphosyntactic features. These rules are blind to morphosyntactic features of the impersonal subject and they can apply within morphemes. Thus, mobility is a function of phonology – not of morphology – and phonological rules alone are responsible for featural mobility.

If this claim proves correct, it will have two important consequences. First, it will provide evidence that analyzing Chaha labialization and palatalization as mobile morphemes is descriptively inadequate. Thus, gradient Optimality Theoretic constraints such as “align morphological categories to an edge” proposed by Akinlabi (1996) to compute the movement of these morphemes can be dispensed with (see Piggott 2000 for similar proposals). Second, it will solve the puzzle that the placement of a morpheme in Chaha depends on its morphosyntactic content. Notice that the phonological signals of well-known and better understood morphemes cross-linguistically have a variety of shapes: C, V, CV, CVC, CVCC, and so on, or their moraic equivalents. Yet, such morphemes are not known to be mobile. So, theories that subscribe to mobile morphemes must attribute the special behaviour of mobility only to morphemes whose phonetic expression can be (partly) featural. In such analyses the morphosyntactic contents of a morpheme (e.g. the impersonal in (1a) vs. the 3fem. sing. in (1b)) will dictate their positions. On the contrary, the claim being made here is that the placement of a morpheme is blind to its morphosyntactic content and that the mobility of phonological features has nothing to do with morphology.


Akinlabi, A. (1996). Featural affixation. Journal of Linguistics 32, 239-289.

Banksira, D. P. (2000). Sound Mutations: The Morphophonology of Chaha. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Hetzron, R. (1971). Internal labialization in the tt-Group of Outer South-Ethiopic. Journal of the American Oriental Society 91, 192-207.

Leslau, W. (1967). The impersonal in Chaha. To honor Roman Jakobson. Essays on the occasion of his seventieth birthday, 1150-1162. The Hague: Mouton.

McCarthy, J.J. (1983). Consonantal morphology in the Chaha verb. The proceedings of the second West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, edited by M. Balow, D. Flickinger & M. Wescoat, 176-188. Palo Alto: Stanford Linguis­tics Association.

Piggott, G. (2000). Against featural alignment. Linguistics 36, 85-128.

Polotsky, J.H. (1951). Notes on Gurage grammar. Jerusalem: Israel Oriental Society.

Rose, S. (1997). Theoretical issues in comparative Ethio-Semitc phonology and morphology. Doctoral dissertation, McGill University.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Seminar Series, March 11

A verb-raising analysis of concord on Blackfoot relative clauses.
Sara Johansson

In Blackfoot (Algonquian), relative clauses consist of an optional determiner, an optional head noun, and a verbal complex, all three of which are marked with nominal number and gender agreement morphology. In this paper, I demonstrate that the verbal complexes within relative clauses are in fact verbal in nature, rather than nominalizations. I propose that the verb raises to Rel to support a dependent morpheme, and that phi-feature marking arises due to concord on the Rel head. Preliminary work suggests that it is possible to extend this proposal to other Algonquian languages to capture cross-linguistic variation within the family.

March 11 at 4pm in SN 4073.
Reception to follow.
All are welcome.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Coming up in our Seminar Series

March 11th
Sara Johanson (MA student, Linguistics). Title: TBA.

March 25th
Degif Banksira (Linguistics). Title: Against Mobile Morphemes

April 1st
Vit Bubenik (Linguistics).
Title: On the Establishment of Ergative Alignment in Indo-Aryan Languages

Talks start at 4pm. Receptions to follow. All are welcome.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Reminder: "Pushing the Envelope: Are Analogy-Based Approaches to Phonological Acquisition Viable?"

The first talk in this semester`s seminar series, by Yvan Rose and Todd Wareham, will take place tomorrow at 4pm in SN 4073. A small reception follows in the seminar room.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Suzanne Power and Evan Hazenberg will be discussing variable (ing) in data collected in Placentia, NL, and Ottawa, ON.

Feel free to bring your lunch or a snack for the group. We are hungry grad students.

Date: Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Time: 12:00 p.m.
Location: FM-2006 (Sociolinguistics lab)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Talk on the Making of the Dictionary of NFLD English

This talk is sponsored by the English Department. Dr. Jeff Webb (Department of History) will speak on the writing of the Dictionary of Newfoundland English.

A Distinguishing Feature of the English Department:
The Writing of the Dictionary of Newfoundland English

Time: 1 p.m.-2 p.m.
Location: A-1049

All are welcome to attend.

Congratulations to Phil Branigan!

Dr. Branigan's new book, "Provocative Syntax" has been published as Linguistics Inquiry Monograph 61, by the MIT Press.

More information about Dr. Branigan's book can be found here.

What people are saying about Phil (and his book) (from the MIT Press page):

"Provocative Syntax is a desperately needed breath of fresh air for Minimalist syntax's model of movement. ‘Provocation’ is an exciting alternative to the EPP that is still well grounded in Chomskyan tradition. This book is a must-read for anyone dissatisfied with motivating movement via uninterpretable features."
Daniel Siddiqi, School of Linguistics

"Provocative Syntax sparkles with originality and erudition. Branigan brilliantly connects seemingly unrelated theoretical strands to weave a tight and elegant model of syntactic movement and provides theoretically unified solutions to many outstanding problems in the syntax of Germanic and Romance. Among the numerous books and papers spawned by Chomsky’s Minimalist program, this book is one of the most profound I’ve read.”
Ur Shlonsky, Professor of Linguistics, University of Geneva

Seminar Series starts up again

Yvan Rose (Department of Linguistics) and Todd Wareham (Department of Computer Science) will be speaking on the topic of phonological acquisition. Please see the abstract below. All are welcome to attend!

February 11, 2011
Location: TBA

Pushing the Envelope:
Are Analogy-Based Approaches to Phonological Acquisition Viable?

When learning a language, children must first learn the phonological categories (e.g. sound and syllable types) particular to that language. Even though such learning appears to exploit statistical regularities in language input (e.g. Kuhl 2004), this seems at odds with a growing body of evidence that the later stages of phonological acquisition are performed at a more symbolic level (e.g. Thiessen & Saffran 2003). One way of dealing with this problem is to assume that acquisition occurs by progressive and incremental generalizations over linguistic inputs. Such a model phrased within Dedre Gentner's structure-mapping theory of analogy-based generalization has been shown to be consistent with the later acquisition of individual words, syntax, and relational categories.

This suggests two important questions:

1) Can such a (possibly modified) model work for phonological acquisition?

2) How might such a model be tested?

In this talk, we will give some preliminary answers and further thoughts on these questions.