Implicational Markedness and Frequency in Constraint-Based Computational Models of Phonological Learning

Jarosz, Gaja. 2010. Implicational Markedness and Frequency in Constraint-Based Computational Models of Phonological Learning. In Journal of Child Language 37(3), Special Issue on Computational models of child language learning, 565-606. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI:


This study examines the interacting roles of implicational markedness and frequency from the joint perspectives of formal linguistic theory, phonological acquisition and computational modeling. The hypothesis that child grammars are rankings of universal constraints, as in Optimality Theory (Prince & Smolensky, 1993/2004), that learning involves a gradual transition from an unmarked initial state to the target grammar, and that order of acquisition is guided by frequency, along the lines of Levelt, Schiller & Levelt (2000), is investigated. The study reviews empirical findings on syllable structure acquisition in Dutch, German, French and English, and presents novel findings on Polish. These comparisons reveal that, to the extent allowed by implicational markedness universals, frequency covaries with acquisition order across languages. From the computational perspective, the paper shows that interacting roles of markedness and frequency in a class of constraint-based phonological learning models embody this hypothesis, and their predictions are illustrated via computational simulation.

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