Tag Archives: Phonology
6/28 Variation in the Acquisition of Sound Systems

June 28, 2013
2306 Mason Hall

Organizer contact: Lisa Davidson (lisa.davidson@nyu.edu)

Click here for Workshop website.

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What is the role of variability in how sound systems are acquired or changed? This workshop examines this topic from a number of different perspectives, including child language acquisition, non-native production and perception, sound change, and phonotactic learning. The workshop will be held on one day, including 5 invited 1 hour talks and a poster session.

Speakers include:
Lisa Davidson (New York University)
Matt Goldrick (Northwestern University)
Bob McMurray (University of Iowa)
Katherine White (University of Waterloo)
Alan Yu (University of Chicago)

This workshop is made possible by the generous support of the Departments of Linguistics at New York University and Northwestern University.

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Computational Modeling of Sound Change

James Kirby – University of Edinburgh
Morgan Sonderegger – McGill University
Course time: Tuesday/Thursday 3:30-5:20 pm
2347 Mason Hall

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Decades of empirical research have led to an increasingly nuanced picture of the nature of phonetic and phonological change, incorporating insights from speech production and perception, cognitive biases, and social factors. However, there remains a significant gap between observed patterns and proposed mechanisms, in part due to the difficulty of conducting the type of controlled studies necessary to test hypotheses about historical change. Computational and mathematical models provide an alternative means by which such hypotheses can be fruitfully explored. With an eye towards Box’s dictum (all models are wrong, but some are useful), this course asks: how can computational models be useful for understanding why phonetic and phonological change occurs?  Students will study the growing and varied literature on computational and mathematical modeling of sound change that has emerged over the past decade and a half, including models of phonetic change in individuals over the lifespan, phonological change in speech communities in historical time, and lexical diffusion. Discussion topics will include the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches (e.g.simulation-based vs. mathematical models); identifying which modeling frameworks are best suited for particular types of research questions; and methodological considerations in modeling phonetic and phonological change. For this course, some background in probability theory, single-variable calculus, and/or linear algebra is helpful but not required.

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Individual Differences in Sound Change

Jeff Mielke – University of Ottawa
Alan Yu – University of Chicago
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 11:00 am – 12:50 pm
2407 Mason Hall

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One of the great mysteries of linguistics is the so-called actuation problem, first articulated in Weinreich, Labov, and Herzog 1968, and still largely unanswered to this day. The question is what causes the inception of language change, if the linguistic conditions favoring particular changes are always present? Previous studies on sound change have mainly focused on group effects, that is, effects observed in a population as a whole. Recent work has drawn on interspeaker variation for a solution to the actuation puzzle. The main impetus for considering individual differences in the context of sound change comes from the need to build a linking theory that bridges the gap between the emergence of new linguistic variants and their eventual propagation.

This course will explore sources of individual linguistic differences, and the role they may play in the initiation and propagation of sound change.  Idiosyncratic variation provides an opportunity to understand the limits and flexibility of the human capacity for language, and to better understand the observed properties of natural languages, which are systems that must be shared by individuals who differ from each other in important ways.  We will focus on three types of individual-level factors that have been implicated in language variation and change, namely covert linguistic/phonetic differences (e.g., differences in lexicon, articulation, and cue weighting), social-attitudinal matters, and neuro-cognitive factors.

Students enrolling in this course should have at least one course in phonetics and/or phonology.

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Structure and Evolution of the Lexicon

Janet Pierrehumbert – Northwestern University
Course time: Tuesday/Thursday 11:00 am – 12:50 pm
2353 Mason Hall

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This class will explore the basic principles that create and sustain the richness of the lexicon in human languages. We will consider how new words are created, how they are learned, and how they are replicated through social interactions in human communities. Empirical data will be drawn from classical sources, from language on the Internet, and from computer-based “games with a purpose”. Using concepts from research on population biology and social dynamics, we will also discuss mathematical approaches to modeling the life and death of words.

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