LSA Special Session on Learning Lexical Specificity in Phonology

Claire Moore-Cantwell and Stephanie Shih have organized a special session at the 2017 LSA on Learning Lexical Specificity in Phonology. See below for the schedule and a summary by Claire and Stephanie.

When/where: Friday, January 6, 2:00pm to 5:00pm @ JW Grand Ballroom 7
Link to LSA website:


Introduction by Joe Pater (2:00-2:10)

Part 1. Allomorphy & Alternations (2:10-3:35)

  • Michael Becker: Affix-specificity makes stress learnable
  • Brian W. Smith: Using phonotactics to learn affix-specific phonology
  • Discussion by Sharon Inkelas, Kie Zuraw

Part 2. Items & Classes (3:35-5:00)

  • Claire Moore-Cantwell: Concurrent learning of the lexicon and phonology
  • Stephanie S. Shih: Learning lexical classes for class-sensitive phonology
  • Discussion by Andries Coetzee, Jennifer Smith


The interaction of the phonological grammar with the lexicon is a necessary component in the phonological acquisition process and its end state, since the lexicon shapes and is shaped by phonology at potentially every stage of learning. The phonological grammar and lexicon share a complex relationship, as illustrated by the numerous phenomena in which phonological behavior exhibits lexical specificity: morphologically-conditioned phonology, lexical class-sensitive phonology, lexical exceptions to phonological patterns, and phonological variation in the lexicon. This relationship has heavily influenced the development of morphophonological theory. The current state of the field presents new challenges to understanding grammar and the lexicon. Access to natural language quantitative data now allows us to observe not only the empirical extent of lexical specificity across a phonological system but also the push-pull between massive variation and systematicity that exists in natural languages. Newly available empirical tools such as corpus methods, machine learning, and experimental techniques have accelerated investigations of learning and acquisition, as have developments in understanding psycholinguistic influences on phonology. This symposium brings together work that leverages these modern empirical developments and situates this new work within the broader landscape of phonological theory.

The symposium will address the following issues of learning lexical specificity in the grammar: When and how does a learner learn lexical specificity? How does the learner manage lexical specificity and natural language variation? How does lexical sensitivity differ or remain the same for learning alternations and allomorphy versus static lexical phonotactics? What are the relevant lexical items and categories for phonology? How specific does lexical specificity have to be? What is the optimal balance in grammatical design between representational efficiency and predictive accuracy and robustness? How is the trade-off between complexity and adequacy managed in grammar and learning of lexically-sensitive phonological patterns? How do the developing grammar and lexicon interact in learning? How do features of the lexicon such as lexical frequency influence the grammar?

Thanks to Brian Smith for having put this information together in a post!


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