LSA 224: Phonological learning and typology

Elliott Moreton | session 2 | TuTh 8:30 – 10:15, 179 Stanley Hall

Two main factors have been identified as shaping phonological typology by biasing historical change. One is channel bias, systematic errors in speaker-to-hearer transmission which cause the learner to induce a grammar different from the ambient one. The other is analytic bias, cognitive predispositions which make some patterns easier to learn than others. The division of responsibility between the two factors is a matter of intense debate. In recent years, a new source of evidence has become available through the flowering of experimental work on the learning of artificial phonological patterns in the lab. This course looks at the theoretical, empirical, and practical aspects of lab-learned phonology. Principal questions include: (1) What connection is there between these brief lab experiments and natural language? (2) What are the principal results to date, what aspects of typology might they explain, and how good are the explanations? (3) What are the design and technical considerations involved in these experiments, and how can we do better?

Reading: Selected materials available online.

Prerequisites: A previous course in phonology.

Areas of linguistics: Language development and psycholinguistics; Phonetics, phonology, and morphology

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