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.