22 January 2012

Anne Pycha gives McGill colloquium

Anne Pycha was the colloquium speaker at McGill on Friday, January 20th. She delivered "Phonological signatures in words: Evidence from production and perception of diphthongs."  The abstract of her talk follows.


This talk wrestles with two big problems that face phonology. First, non‐local dependencies in phonology are not widely attested, despite the fact that they are common at other levels of linguistic analysis, such as syntax. Second, many phonological processes bear close resemblance to phonetic processes, suggesting that no real difference exists between abstract phonological structures and the physical events of articulation. In this talk, I pursue the hypothesis that phonologically contrastive processes exhibit acoustic “signatures” that are a) non‐local and b) absent from otherwise similar phonetic processes. Experiment 1 demonstrates that English speakers produce non‐local dependencies in order to maintain contrast between words such as bite vs. bide, but not in order to accomplish other tasks, such as changing speech rates or signaling phrasal positions. Experiments 2 & 3 demonstrate that English listeners can use these dependencies to perceptually distinguish between words like bite vs. bide, even in the absence of other cues. The upshot of these findings, which build on previous work that I have done in Hungarian, is that phonology does use non‐local dependencies, and these dependencies crucially distinguish it from phonetics. I analyze non‐locality in both languages as motivated by a need to target maximal segments, and I examine the implications of this analysis for cross‐linguistic typology.