Monthly Archives: January 2016

Kawahara and Pangilinan to appear: Spectral continuity, amplitude changes, and perception of length contrasts

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ROA: 1269
Title: Spectral continuity, amplitude changes, and perception of length contrasts
Authors: Shigeto Kawahara, Melanie Pangilinan
Comment: To appear in H. Kubozono (ed.) Aspects of Geminate Consonants. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Length: 25
Abstract: Japanese deploys a singleton-geminate contrast in obstruents and nasals, but not in glides. Even though Japanese allows lexical nasal geminates, patterns of emphatic gemination show that Japanese avoids creating nasal geminates. Japanese therefore disfavors sonorant gemi- nates in general, and glide geminates in particular. These phonological patterns of geminates are actually found in other languages as well, such as Ilokano (Hayes, 1989). This paper tests hypotheses about why speakers of these languages show these preferences. Concerning the distinction between obstruent geminates and sonorant geminates, Podesva (2002) hypothesizes that the phonological dispreference against sonorant geminates exists because these geminates are easily confused with corresponding singletons. This confusability problem arises because sonorants are spectrally continuous with flanking vowels, and consequently their constriction durations are difficult to perceive. Two non-speech perception experiments, Experiments I and II, confirm this hypothesis by showing that length distinctions of consonant intervals that are spectrally continuous with surrounding segments are difficult to perceive. Concerning the difference between nasal geminates and glide geminates, this paper builds on the finding by Kato et al. (1997) that given streams of sounds, listeners use amplitude changes to demarcate segmental boundaries. Experiments III and IV show that amplitude changes facilitate catego- rization and discrimination of short/long contrasts of consonantal intervals. These results are compatible with the fact that several languages disfavor glide geminates more than nasal gem- inates. Overall, the results of the four perception experiments reported here accord well with the cross-linguistic phonological patterning of geminates. We close this paper by discussing what the current results imply about how the phonetics-phonology works.
Type: Paper/tech report
Area geminates, perceptibility, Dispersion Theory



Magri to appear: How to keep the HG weights non-negative: the truncated Perceptron reweighing rule

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ROA: 1268
Title: How to keep the HG weights non-negative: the truncated Perceptron reweighing rule
Authors: Giorgio Magri
Comment: to appear in the Journal of Language Modelling
Length: 32
Abstract: The literature on error-driven learning in Harmonic Grammar (HG) has adopted the Perceptron reweighing rule. Yet, this rule is not suited to HG, as it fails at ensuring non-negative weights. A variant is thus considered which truncates the updates at zero, keeping the weights non-negative. Convergence guarantees and error bounds for the original Perceptron are shown to extend to its truncated variant.
Type: Paper/tech report
Keywords: learnability, error-driven learning, HG, Perceptron



Magri to appear: Noise robustness and stochastic tolerance of OT error-driven ranking algorithms

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ROA: 1267
Title: Noise robustness and stochastic tolerance of OT error-driven ranking algorithms
Authors: Giorgio Magri
Comment: 30
Length: to appear in the Journal of Language and Computation
Abstract: Recent counterexamples show that HG error-driven learning (with the classical Perceptron reweighing rule) is not robust to noise and does not tolerate the stochastic implementation. This article guarantees that no analogous counterexamples are possible for proper OT error-driven learners. In fact, a simple extension of the OT convergence analysis developed in the literature (Tesar and Smolensky 1998; Boersma 2009; Magri 2012) is shown to ensure stochastic tolerance and noise robustness of the OT learner. Implications for the comparison between the HG and OT implementations of constraint-based phonology are discussed.
Type: Paper/tech report
Keywords: learnability, stochastic tolerance, noise robustness



Magri to appear: Error-driven learning in OT and HG: a comparison

Direct link:

ROA: 1266
Title: Error-driven learning in OT and HG: a comparison
Authors: Giorgio Magri
Comment: to appear in Phonology
Length: 35
Abstract: The OT error-driven learner is known to admit guarantees of efficiency, stochastic tolerance and noise robustness which hold independently of any substantive assumptions on the constraints. This paper shows that the HG learner instead does not admit such constraint-independent guarantees. The HG theory of error-driven learning thus needs to be substantially restricted to specific constraint sets.
Type: Paper/tech report
Keywords: learnability, error-driven learning, Harmonic Grammar

Gathering data on gender distribution

From Kristen Syrett (
Dear all,
I’m writing to you, because I believe we are all like-minded in wanting to gather data on gender distribution and the representation of women in the field of Linguistics, and use these data to implement some positive changes in the field. I am currently chair of the LSA’s Committee for the Status of Women in Linguistics (COSWL).
The charge of COSWL is, “To monitor and advance the status of women in Linguistics.” To that end, one of our major initiatives this year (which will continue beyond this year, to be sure) is to gather and analyze data on gender distribution and the representation of women in a range of areas in the field, which can then be published and/or formally presented in a venue accessible to others in the field. (On a side note, COSWL have been actively involved in the last year in increasing awareness about the skew in gender distribution in LSA awards, particularly the Early Career Award, and was instrumental in instituting changes for the nomination process this past year, with a very positive outcome for 2015! We hope to continue this momentum this year.)
Emily and I believe that the grassroots efforts on data collection are an extremely effective way of compiling data. We also think that combining forces and working collectively on this effort would result in an incredibly meaningful and useful result.  For example, right now, if I wanted my colleagues to consider data on this topic when compiling short lists, inviting speakers at conferences, evaluating journal practices, etc., there is no common place where I can point them to reveal data on this topic, and the data are not uniformly accessible.  I had such an instance arise in the last year, and I desperately wanted to be able to refer my colleague to a reliable source of data to underscore my point, but was not able to do so.
I’m therefore writing specifically to you all to see if you (and anyone else you can think of) would be interested in working together on this data collection and analysis initiative.  We have a very enthusiastic group of COSWL members who are ready to hit the ground running with this, and who bring with them some skills and access to resources that could be very valuable in this effort. We have some ideas about our short-term and long-term goals for data collection and analysis.
The LSA could also provide us with valuable resources in reaching out to current members, but also more broadly to departments and others in the field, with the purpose of collecting and compiling data.(I had a meeting with the secretariat about this topic last week, and Emily also talked with them about this effort last year, so they are very supportive of COSWL’s work on this.) In addition, the LSA secretariat has been compiling data about gender distribution in Language and Semantics and Pragmatics submissions and publications, which could prove valuable. I see the LSA as a valuable resource in this endeavor, facilitating the collection and dissemination of relevant data.
In short, I am very much hoping that combining efforts and utilizing the resources of COSWL could really be awesome, and result in some very positive outcomes for the field.  I would be very happy to talk to any/all of you further either by email or Skype in the next few weeks. (Please forward this message along to whoever else you think might be interested!)
I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience!
Warmest regards,

Call for papers in Computational Phonology

From Jeff Heinz (


Phonology (Cambridge University Press)

Thematic issue: ‘Computational phonology’

Projected to appear as one of the first issues of Phonology 34 (2017)

Computation continues to play a central role in generative grammar. Within phonology, the kinds of computations and representations employed in grammars is an ever-present issue. This thematic issue on computational phonology capitalises on the recent surge of interest in computational phonology, broadly construed. Submissions are invited which:

– Characterise and/or otherwise examine the computational nature of phonological systems;

– Provide algorithms and/or models which successfully learn aspects of phonology;

– Address computational issues at the interfaces of phonology and other components of grammar such as phonetics and morphology.

Papers are welcome from any theoretical perspective, including – but not limited to – constraint-based grammars, derivational grammars, finite-state grammars, statistical grammars, non-statistical grammars and grammars utilising string-based, feature-based or other structured representations of words or other phonological domains.

This thematic issue, which will be edited by Jeffrey Heinz (University of Delaware) and William J. Idsardi (University of Maryland), is open to all potential contributors, and is projected to appear as one of the first issues of Phonology 34 (2017).

The deadline for submissions is 1 March 2016.

General information on the submission of manuscripts can be found in previous issues of the journal, or on the Phonology website (

For this issue, submissions should be sent in PDF format to and An abstract (no longer than 150 words) should be included.

Preference will be given to papers which will occupy no more than 20 printed pages in the journal (around 8000 words).

Submissions will be read by at least two reviewers and by the editors of the thematic issue.


Discussion topic: Structured abstracts

From Valerie Freeman (

What do you think of “structured abstracts”? In some fields, abstracts for conferences and journals are “structured,” with headings like “purpose, method, results, applications” – I find them easy to read (and write), but I haven’t seen them in linguistics much. I wonder, if people started sending them in for phonology conferences, how would reviewers react? If/when you’re a reviewer, would you like it? I’ve created a two-question survey to gather opinions, with links to an example and the instant-tally results:

Answers will be especially helpful to students and early-career linguists who worry about the risk of trying something new to the field. Thanks!


Visiting assistant professor: UC Santa Cruz

From Junko Ito via Eric Bakovic

The Linguistics Department at UC Santa Cruz has just announced a search for a visiting assistant professor in phonology for 2016-17 (possibility for renewal for another year, pending budgetary approval).

The visiting position is for filling in the gaps in the curriculum and advising due to faculty sabbatical leaves and administrative appointments.

Department of Linguistics
Visiting Assistant Professor

The Department of Linguistics at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) invites applications for a Visiting Assistant Professor for the 2016-17 academic year. Applicants should have a Ph.D. degree in Linguistics or related field, and a research and teaching specialization in phonological theory. A secondary specialization in an area that interfaces with phonology will be viewed favorably. The successful candidate will be expected to pursue research, and to contribute breadth and depth to the undergraduate and graduate curricula, including the mentoring of graduate and undergraduate students. The applicant must be able to work with students and faculty from a wide range of social and cultural backgrounds. The campus is especially interested in candidates who can contribute to the diversity and excellence of the academic community through their research, teaching, and service. The position carries a four-course workload (two undergraduate courses and two graduate courses) divided over three quarters with an expectation that the selected candidate will pursue an active program of research and perform departmental service.

Rank: Visiting Assistant Professor II – III

Salary: $62,000 – $65,400, commensurate with qualifications and experience; academic year (9-month) basis

Basic Qualifications: Ph.D. or equivalent foreign degree in Linguistics or a closely related field; record of research and teaching. Degree expected to be conferred by June 30, 2016.

Position Available: July 1, 2016, with fall quarter beginning September 2016. Ph.D. must be conferred by June 30, 2016 for employment beyond that date.

Term of Appointment: The initial appointment is for one year, with a possible extension to a second year. Should the hiring unit propose reappointment; a review to assess performance will be conducted. Reappointment is also contingent upon availability of funding.

To Apply: Applications are accepted via the UCSC Academic Recruit online system, and must include a letter of application, curriculum vitae, research statement, teaching statement, teaching evaluations (if available), one (no more than three) writing samples or publications, and three confidential letters of recommendation.* Applicants are invited to submit a statement addressing their contributions to diversity through research, teaching and/or service. Submit all documents/materials as PDF files.

Apply at the application website below. Refer to Position #JPF00333-16T in all correspondence.

*All letters will be treated as confidential per University of California policy and California state law. For any reference letter provided via a third party (i.e., dossier service, career center), direct the author to UCSC’s confidentiality statement at

Closing Date: Review of applications will begin on March 1, 2016. To ensure full consideration, applications should be complete and letters of recommendation received by this date. The position will remain open until filled, but not later than 6/30/2016.


MFM Invited speakers announced

Twenty-Fourth Manchester Phonology Meeting

26-28 MAY 2016, Deadline for abstracts: 15th February 2016

Special session: ‘Evidence in phonology’, featuring (in alphabetical order):
* William Idsardi (University of Maryland)
* Janet Pierrehumbert (University of Oxford)
* Sharon Rose (University of California, San Diego)

*  Adam Albright (MIT)

NB: there will also be a FRINGE workshop on the afternoon of Wednesday 25th May, timed to coincide with the mfm, entitled ‘Computation and learnability in phonological theory’ – details of this can be found here:


McCarthy, Pater and Pruitt 2016: Cross-level interactions in Harmonic Serialism

From Joe Pater (

McCarthy, John J., Joe Pater, and Kathryn Pruitt. To appear 2016. Cross-level interactions in Harmonic Serialism. In John McCarthy and Joe Pater, eds. Harmonic Grammar and Harmonic Serialism. London: Equinox Press.

Cross-level interactions are phonological processes that make reference to multiple levels of the prosodic hierarchy, such as vowel shortening in the weak position of a foot. Cross-level interactions figure in most arguments for parallelism in Optimality Theory. This chapter demonstrates with several case studies how cross-level interactions can be analyzed in Harmonic Serialism. The key insight is that the relevant constraints may be violated in the course of the derivation, even if they are obeyed in underlying and surface forms. Cross-level interactions require parallelism only if constraints are inviolable, but that is inconsistent with a fundamental premise of Harmonic Serialism and every other version of Optimality Theory. The problems that cross-level interactions pose for serial theories with inviolable constraints are demonstrated through a review of their treatment in pre-OT constraints and repairs theories.