15 February 2015

Gillian Gallagher gives department colloq

Gillian Gallagher (NYU) will give the department colloquium this Friday, February 20, in the colloq room (N400) at 3:30. A title and abstract of her talk follows.

Natural classes in phonotactic learning

The core representational unit in phonology is the feature, used to  define contrasts between sound categories (/i/ and /e/ are  distinguished by [±high]) and to pick out classes of sounds that  pattern together in the phonology ([+high] vowels may be restricted  from final position in some languages). Traditionally, phonological  features are thought to bear a direct relation to phonetic properties  (Jakobson, Fant & Halle 1952; Chomsky & Halle 1968). Under more recent  proposals, though, features are labels for phonologically active  classes that may bear a loose or no relation to the phonetics of the  sounds in question (Mielke 2008). In this talk, I present evidence  that phonetics plays a direct role in the natural classes used in the  phonological grammar.

The cooccurrence phonotactics of Quechua provide evidence for natural  classes grouping aspirated stops with the glottal fricative [h], and  grouping ejective stops with the glottal stop [?]. In addition to  being phonologically active, both of these classes are phonetically  definable based on articulatory properties of the glottis: [spread  glottis] picks out aspirates and [h], [constricted glottis] picks out  ejectives and [?]. Despite the phonological and phonetic support, two  nonce word tasks fail to find evidence for these natural classes in  speakers' grammars. Instead, aspirate and ejective stops seem to be  targeted by the phonotactics to the exclusion of their glottal  counterparts. It is proposed that the preference for these smaller  classes of laryngeally marked stops is phonetically based, deriving  from the salience of the acoustic properties unique to stops.