Prickett in Phonology

Brandon Prickett has just published “Learning biases in opaque interactions” in the latest issue of Phonology. Congratulations Brandon!

This study uses an artificial language learning experiment and computational modelling to test Kiparsky’s claims about Maximal Utilisation and Transparency biases in phonological acquisition. A Maximal Utilisation bias would prefer phonological patterns in which all rules are maximally utilised, and a Transparency bias would prefer patterns that are not opaque. Results from the experiment suggest that these biases affect the learnability of specific parts of a language, with Maximal Utilisation affecting the acquisition of individual rules, and Transparency affecting the acquisition of rule orderings. Two models were used to simulate the experiment: an expectation-driven Harmonic Serialism learner and a sequence-to-sequence neural network. The results from these simulations show that both models’ learning is affected by these biases, suggesting that the biases emerge from the learning process rather than any explicit structure built into the model.