Tag Archives: Phonology
6/27 Janet Pierrehumbert (Sapir Professor): “Lexical Variability”


Janet Pierrehumbert, Northwestern University
2013 Linguistic Institute’s Edward Sapir Professor
Thursday, June 27, 2013 7:00 pm
Askwith Auditorium, Lorch Hall
Reception to follow


Read Abstract

Words are the nexus of the relation between form and meaning in language, and a rich lexicon is a hallmark of the intelligence of the human species. Words support cooperation amongst people by enabling them to share complex information about other times and places, abstract ideas, and emotions and social judgments. These facts motivate a large and fruitful body of research on how  shared vocabularies arise in linguistic communities, and how children acquire the vocabulary of the language spoken around them.  This emphasis on lexical convergence, however,  abstracts away from significant differences across speakers  in the total inventory of words, their abstract representations, their detailed phonetics,  and their patterns of use in context.  Equally,  it abstracts away from variation across words in who knows them, when and where they are used, and how they are pronounced. It  begs the question of  how the vocabularies of languages keep changing even after  a shared norm is in place.

This talk will document an assortment of cases of lexical variability, which touch on levels of linguistic representation from phonetics to pragmatics.  All  involve the interaction of cognitive and social factors in learning, remembering, and producing words. I will discuss these cases in the context of computational models of language acquisition and change.  I conclude by  developing a connection between synchronic variation and the robustness and  adaptability of language over time.

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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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7/12 Universality and Variability in Segment-Prosody Interactions

July 12, 2013
2407 Mason Hall

Organizer contact: Marzena Żygis (zygis@zas.gwz-berlin.de)

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Christine Mooshammer (USC, Los Angeles, tine@haskins.yale.edu)
Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel (MIT, sshuf@MIT.EDU)
Marzena Żygis (Centre for General Linguistics (ZAS) & Humboldt University, Berlin, zygis@zas.gwz-berlin.de)

Several studies on universals in phonology and phonetics pertain either to segmentals (e.g. sound frequencies, gaps in inventories, preferences for certain cluster types) or supra-segmentals (e.g. preferences in stress and intonational patterns). In recent years, accumulating evidence has suggested that language-specific interactions between the two levels can induce systematic temporal and qualitative variability on the segmental level. For example, most sounds lengthen substantially following a phrase boundary, but there are exceptions such as the sibilants; lax vowels do not lengthen under stress; and glottal stop insertion also depends on the quality of the following vowel. This workshop is aimed at gaining more insight into the interdependence of the segmental and prosodic levels from a cross-linguistic perspective. Papers which deal with the following questions are of particular importance:

(i) What patterns of segmental and supra-segmental interactions are found cross-linguistically?

(ii) How does metrical structure influence segments, phonotactics and phonological processes?

(iii) What principles govern segment-specific variation due to prosodic effects, e.g. localized hyper articulation, feature enhancement, syntagmatic dissimilation or prominence enhancement?

(iv) Why do some segments or larger units resist the more global prosodic variations, e.g. in order to maintain a contrast?

(v) How do different models deal with the segmental-prosodic variation, e.g. Exemplar Theory (Pierrehumbert 2001), pi-gesture model (Byrd & Saltzmann 2003), (bidirectional) OT (Boersma 1998) and others?

Invited speakers:
Laura Dilley, Michigan State University
Paul de Lacy, Rutgers University
Jelena Krivokapic, Haskins Labs



7/13-14 Workshop on Interfaces at the Left Periphery

July 13-14, 2013
2330 Mason Hall

Organizer contacts: Ed Cormany (esc53@cornell.edu) (primary), Sarah Courtney (sgc47@cornell.edu), Cara DiGirolamo (cmd279@cornell.edu)

Click here to see workshop website.

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Since Rizzi’s (1997) original syntactic exploration of the sentential left periphery, the complexity of the domain at a clause’s edge has received attention from linguists studying syntax, semantics and prosody. However, study of the cross-linguistic variety in clause boundaries, clause typing, and the information-structural use of peripheral positions has only scratched the surface. This workshop seeks to bring together linguists working on the “left edge” of the sentence from a variety of theoretical backgrounds. We hope to facilitate dialogue between discourse theorists, semanticists, syntacticians, phonologists, and phoneticians to come to a better understanding of what is going on just above (syntactically) or just before (phonologically) the traditional IP domain. Topics that the workshop will cover include but are not limited to: clause typing, complementation, discourse constraints on argument structure, information structure, and word order change as they pertain to the left periphery, sentence-initial positions, and the CP domain.

We will solicit applications to fill three panels. Panels on any aspect of clause boundaries or the left periphery not covered in the invited panels — particularly sessions on prosodic and phonological interfaces — are welcome. Research on understudied languages or languages that have not traditionally been part of the left periphery literature are encouraged. Submissions from graduate students or recent Ph.D. recipients are especially welcome.  Full panel submissions, including presenters and a chairperson, will be accepted in early spring.
The organizers will invite speakers for another three panels, each of which address different aspects of the left periphery.

The first invited panel will center on clause types and the syntax/semantics/pragmatics interface at the left periphery. The panel will bring together researchers working on semantic interpretations at the highest level of the clause, focusing on questions, imperatives, and the distinction between matrix and subordinate clauses.

The second invited panel will focus on the discourse properties of the periphery. This panel will seek out research on the contextual and information-structural constraints on phrases that are displaced from their base positions into the left periphery, as well as research about peripheral discourse particles that perform clause-linking functions.

The third invited panel examines clause boundaries and peripheries from a diachronic perspective. The panel will present research dealing with the roles that information structure and leftward displacement of arguments play in word-order changes (e.g., the development and loss of V2 constructions).

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7/14 How the Brain Accommodates Variability in Linguistic Representations

July 14, 2013
Aud C, Angell Hall

Organizer Contact: T. Florian Jaeger (fjaeger@bcs.rochester.edu)

Click here for workshop website.

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Articulatory Phonology

Khalil Iskarous – University of Southern California
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 1:30-3:20 pm

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Articulatory Phonology (AP) is a view of the sound structure of a language that tries to account both for its abstract aspect, contrast and pattern, as well as its physical realization in speech production and perception. And it does so without assuming a dualistic mind-body distinction between phonology-phonetics. The key aspect of AP that allows is to be non-dualistic is a dynamical framework that allows for a principled (non-arbitrary) relation between symbolic/discrete entities and continuous motion. This course will start by introducing students to the dynamical framework of task dynamics, and how contrasts and patterns are expressed in this framework. Students will also be introduced to TaDa, a computational engine allowing for the derivation of continuous motion of articulators and formants from an utterance described in terms of overlapped elementary contrasts, expressed as gestures. Segmental and prosodic phonology will be discussed in combination with each other throughout the course.

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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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Introduction to Morphophonology

Adam Albright – Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 11:00 am – 12:50 pm
2347 Mason Hall

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A survey of ways in which morphological structure influences and constrains phonological processes.  The first half of the course will focus on cases in which phonological processes are sensitive to morphological constituency or the existence of morphologically related forms, including morpheme structure constraints, cyclicity effects in derived words, and paradigm effects (uniformity, antihomophony) in inflected forms.  We will contrast two main approaches: cyclic evaluation of subparts of the word, and surface evaluation employing output-output correspondence constraints.  We then turn to processes that affect some morphemes but not others, including lexically specific allomorphy and affix-specific processes, comparing representational approaches (diacritics, floating features) with dual-route approaches (grammar + memorized exceptions).  A recurring theme throughout the course will be the predictions that different approaches make for acquisition and historical change; in addition, we will consider evidence from corpus studies and psycholinguistic experiments.

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Introduction to Phonology

Gillian Gallagher – New York University
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 3:30-5:20 pm
2330 Mason Hall

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This course is an introduction to phonological theory, centering on the representations and the analysis of phonotactic patterns. We will cover theories of phonological representations, beginning with distinctive feature matrices as in The Sound Pattern of English (Chomsky & Halle 1968) and continuing through feature geometry (Clements 1985; Sagey 1986; McCarthy 1988) as well as theories of articulatorily and auditorally detailed representations (Browman & Goldstein 1986 et seq.; Gafos 1999; Flemming 2002). The analysis of phonotactic patterns such as dissimilatory co-occurrence restrictions, consonant-vowel interactions, and harmony patterns will be considered in detail, with attention paid both to the representational components of the analysis as well as the structure of grammatical statements (e.g., the form of markedness constraints). The discussion will largely assume either Autosegmental Phonology (Goldsmith 1975) or Optimality Theory (Prince & Smolensky 1993/2004) as the formal framework. The course is not designed to provide a systematic introduction to either of these frameworks, though a brief introduction to each will be given. Prior knowledge of either framework is not required. A basic understanding of the phonetic properties of speech sounds will be assumed. There is no textbook for the class, though there will be readings for each class and the lecture notes will be made available. There will be several homework assignments, as well as in class exercises to work through the course material.


Phonological Acquisition

Anne-Michelle Tessier – University of Alberta
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 9:00-10:50 am
2333 Mason Hall

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This class is an introduction to several aspects of child phonological acquisition: what early phonologies sound like, how child speech is similar to and also different from adult phonologies, what properties of child speech seem universal vs. language-specific, and how current phonological theories and models capture and predict developmental stages in child speech, and with what success. The empirical focus will be child L1 and some L2 production from about 18 months to five years, in a wide variety of languages, and class meetings will be data-intensive. The grammatical focus will be constraint-based, as in Optimality Theory and Harmonic Grammar, but many different models of learning will be explored. Over the course of the session, we will study the acquisition of segments, syllables, word shapes and simple morpho-phonology, drawing evidence from longitudinal and cross-sectional studies, and also consider the interactions of phonological development and word learning, and some recent insights drawn from computational simulations of phonological learning.


Prosody and Information Structure

Angelika Kratzer – University of Massachusetts
Lisa Selkirk – University of Massachusetts
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 9:00-10:50 am
2306 Mason Hall

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Relying on recent theoretical and cross-linguistic work, the course will begin by clarifying the semantic and pragmatic properties of information structure that natural languages choose to represent in one way or other – syntactically, prosodically, or lexically. The emphasis will be on the representation of discourse-old versus discourse-new, various types of contrasts, and various types of topicality. We will then explore how different languages exploit morphological, syntactic, or prosodic formats of representation to express information structural distinctions.  Given the expertise of the instructors, the prosodic reflexes of information structure and their various sources in the grammar will get the most attention in this course, but, in line with the theme of this Summer Institute, we will also document that prosody is just one possible way of representing information structural properties in the languages of the world:  there is no necessary connection between prosody and information structure. Throughout the course, we will probe into possible grammatical architectures that might be responsible for the observed range of realizations for information structural properties. Pre-requisites: Graduate student level familiarity with phonology, syntax, and semantics.


Quantitative and Computational Phonology

Bruce Hayes – University of California, Los Angeles
Course time: Tuesday/Thursday 9:00-10:50 am
2306 Mason Hall

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In the grammar architecture of classical Optimality Theory (Prince and Smolensky 1993), constraints are ranked and the grammar generates exactly one winner per input. Phonologists have proposed instead that we should consider models in which the constraints, rather than being ranked, bear weights (real numbers, intuitively related to constraint strength). Weights are employed to calculate probabilities for all members of the candidate set.

Such quantitative grammars open up new research possibilities for constraint-based phonology:

(a) Modeling free variation and the multiple factors that shift the statistical distribution of outputs across contexts;

(b) Modeling gradient intuitions (intermediate well-formedness, ambivalence among output choices);

(c) Modeling quantitative lexical patterns and how they are characteristically mimicked in experiments where native speakers are tested on their phonological knowledge;

(d) Modeling phonological learning:  even where in areas where the ambient language doesn’t vary at all, the child’s conception of what is likely to be the correct grammar of it will change (approaching certainty) as more data are taken in; modeling can trace this process.

This course will be an introduction to these models and research areas. It will emphasize learning by doing. Participants will use software tools that embody the theories at hand and will examine and model data from a variety of digital corpora. The course will not cover computational phonology per se, but it will cover enough computation to give participants a good understanding of the tools they are using. Pre-requisite for this course: a course in phonology.


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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The Phonological Mind

Iris Berent – Northeastern University
Course time: Monday/Wednesday 1:30-3:20 pm
2325 Mason Hall

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All human languages construct words from meaningless elements—either speech sounds (in spoken languages) or manual gestures (in signed linguistic systems).  Not only are phonological patterns evident in every known human language, but they even emerge anew, in the systems generated spontaneously in the homes of deaf signers and in newly emerging languages.  Why do humans engage in phonological patterning? And what mechanisms support our capacity to extend our phonological reflexes to novel forms?

This course addresses these questions from a broad interdisciplinary perspective. We consider evidence from diverse sources, ranging from linguistic analysis to experimental studies of humans, comparative animal work, neurological evidence, genetic studies and computational simulations of language evolution. Select issues include:

  • Specialization and innateness: What is an innate specialized cognitive system?

  • Generalizations: What computational mechanisms support phonological generalizations? Do they exhibit the capacity for discrete infinity?

  • Design. Are there constraints on the design of phonological systems—actual and potential? What is the nature of such restrictions: do they concern language, broadly, or speech, specifically?

  • Hardware: What genes and brain “hardware” regulate the phonological system? Is this hardware specialized for language?

  • Ontogeny: Are some phonological precursors present at birth?

  • Phylogeny: What components of the phonological mind are shared with our evolutionary ancestors? How did the human capacity for phonological patterning evolve?

  • Phonological technologies. Unlike language, reading and writing are “linguistic technologies” that emerge (sometimes spontaneously) on the basis of linguistic principles. Why is reading based on phonology? And why do reading disorders impair speech perception?