Input Frequency and the Acquisition of Syllable Structure in Polish

Jarosz, Gaja, Shira Calamaro & Jason Zentz. 2017. Input Frequency and the Acquisition of Syllable Structure in Polish.  In Language Acquisition 24(4). 261-399.


This paper examines phonological development and its relationship to input statistics. Using novel data from a longitudinal corpus of spontaneous child speech in Polish, we evaluate and compare the predictions of a variety of input-based phonotactic models for syllable structure acquisition. We find that many commonly examined input statistics can make dramatically different predictions, as do different assumptions about the representational units over which statistics are calculated. We find that development is sensitive to multiple abstract units of phonological representation, supporting a crucial role for feature-based generalization. We also identify departures between the predictions of the best phonotactic models and children’s production patterns that indicate input sensitivity alone cannot fully explain the developmental patterns. We discuss the role of universal markedness and phonetic difficulty and argue that a full explanation requires reference to these biases.