Gallagher in Linguistics, Fri. 2/20 at 3:30pm

Gillian Gallagher of NYU will be giving a job talk titled Natural Classes in Phonotactic Learning (abstract below) in the Linguistics department on Friday, 20 February at 3:30 pm in ILC N400. All are welcome to attend.

Natural classes in phonotactic learning

The core representational unit in phonology is the feature, used to
define contrasts between sound categories (/i/ and /e/ are
distinguished by [±high]) and to pick out classes of sounds that
pattern together in the phonology ([+high] vowels may be restricted
from final position in some languages). Traditionally, phonological
features are thought to bear a direct relation to phonetic properties
(Jakobson, Fant & Halle 1952; Chomsky & Halle 1968). Under more recent
proposals, though, features are labels for phonologically active
classes that may bear a loose or no relation to the phonetics of the
sounds in question (Mielke 2008). In this talk, I present evidence
that phonetics plays a direct role in the natural classes used in the
phonological grammar.

The cooccurrence phonotactics of Quechua provide evidence for natural
classes grouping aspirated stops with the glottal fricative [h], and
grouping ejective stops with the glottal stop [?]. In addition to
being phonologically active, both of these classes are phonetically
definable based on articulatory properties of the glottis: [spread
glottis] picks out aspirates and [h], [constricted glottis] picks out
ejectives and [?]. Despite the phonological and phonetic support, two
nonce word tasks fail to find evidence for these natural classes in
speakers’ grammars. Instead, aspirate and ejective stops seem to be
targeted by the phonotactics to the exclusion of their glottal
counterparts. It is proposed that the preference for these smaller
classes of laryngeally marked stops is phonetically based, deriving
from the salience of the acoustic properties unique to stops.

Posted in Uncategorized