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Li/Lt6 Phonology and Morphology. Lecture 1 Phonemes and abstract representations. Today’s topics. Two theories of mind Evidence for abstract mental representations Competence vs performance Priming Phonological alternations Evidence for phonemes Neutralization Language games

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li lt6 phonology and morphology

Li/Lt6 Phonology and Morphology

Lecture 1

Phonemes and abstract representations

today s topics
Today’s topics
  • Two theories of mind
  • Evidence for abstract mental representations
    • Competence vs performance
    • Priming
    • Phonological alternations
  • Evidence for phonemes
    • Neutralization
    • Language games
    • Speech errors
    • Loanword phonology and L2 transfer
    • Orthography
    • Perception
    • Discrimination tasks
the reductionist position
The reductionist position
  • Popular lay intuition that we store and manipulate surface forms
  • Priming effects by individual voice
  • “Once we introduce mechanisms for describing word-word correspondences into the grammar, it may be possible to dispense with underlying representations altogether (see proposals by Burzio 1998, Bybee 2001).” (Sumner 2003)
  • connectionists
psychological reality sapir 1933
Psychological reality:Sapir 1933

oak tree

  • Basic points:
    • speech sounds are stored in the mind as abstract categories (phonemes)
    • These are not always identical to their surface manifestations ((allo)phones)
    • Speakers think of language in terms of phonemes, not phones (i.e. phonemes have psychological reality)
  • Evidence:
    • Spelling: Alex Thomas (Nootka)
      • writes <ħi, ħu> for [ħε, ħ]
      • writes <C!> for 2 different things he was taught (T!, ’R)
    • Intuitions
      • Southern Paiute
        • Tony says [pABAh] for ‘at the water’
        • Asked to divide the word into syllables, he says [pA ][pAh]
        • /p t k/  [β r γ] / V _; no /β r γ/
      • Sarcee
        • John Whitney feels that dìníh ‘it makes a sound’ has a final /t/, whereas dìníh ‘this one’ does not (cf. dìníth -í ‘the one who…’)

maple tree


NB Sapir needs external evidence to decide if the two forms he hears as identical are actually different phonetically

l1 competence performance
L1 competence : performance


“by the time infants are starting productive use of language they can already discriminate almost all of the phonological contrasts of their native language. While they cannot yet produce adult-like forms, they appear, in many respects, to have adult-like representations, which are reflected, among other things, in their vociferous rejections of adult imitations of their phonologically impoverished productions” (Faber and Best 1994:266-7)

Cruttenden 1985

Did you say TINk?


  • “Preferential Looking” paradigm (Hirsh-Pasek and Golinkoff 1993)
  • 19-month old infants’ comprehension of sentence like “Big Bird is hugging Cookie Monster. Where is Big Bird hugging Cookie Monster?”
  • Infants (who can’t speak yet) looked longer at correct video
competence vs performance
competence vs. performance
  • intoxicated speech of the captain of the Exxon Valdez (Johnson, Pisoni, and Bernacki 1990)
    • Observed effects:
      • misarticulation of /r/ and /l/
      • final devoicing
      • Deaffrication
    • Performance problem, not different grammar
  • attempts at producing adult [phεn] pen collected from a 15-month-old child in a 30-minute period (Ferguson 1986):
    • [mãə], [v], [dεdn], [hIn], [mbõ], [pHIn], [tHntHntHn], [bah], [dhau], [buã]
competence vs performance1
competence vs. performance
  • Bedore, Leonard, and Gandour 1994
    • 4 yr old girl substitutes dental click for {s z S Z tS dZ}
    • She can initially imitate the fricatives, but not produce them on her own
    • After a short training session, she starts to produce [s] correctly
    • She then immediately gets all the others right
    • “the rapid rate of change observed in the child’s phonological system seems consistent with a phonological learning model in which the child has adult-like underlying phonological representations” (283)
  • Colloquial Dutch optionally neutralizes obstruent voicing with the clitic -der ‘her’
    • /ık kœs der/ ‘I kiss her’  [ık kœzdər] ~ [ık kœstər]
    • /ık kiz der/ ‘I kiss her’  [ık kizdər] ~ [ık kistər]
  • Do speakers respond faster to targets that match the voicing of a prime?
  • Lexical decision task, with following sequence of events:
    • PRIME(verb+clitic construction)
    • TARGET(verbal infinitive or nonword)
    • DECISION(is the target a legitimate word of Dutch?)
  • Results
    • Responses were faster when voicing of prime corresponded to voicing of UR
  • Conclusion
    • Both variants of a verb are not stored in the lexicon

Jongman, Allard. 2004. Phonological and Phonetic Representations: The Case of Neutralization. Proceedings of the 2003 Texas Linguistics Society Conference: Coarticulation in Speech Production and Perception, Augustine Agwuele, Willis Warren, and Sang-Hoon Park, eds., pp. 9-16.

japanese g and rendaku ito and mester 2003
Japanese g~ŋ and rendaku (Ito and Mester 2003)
  • Rendaku: C  [+voi] / ]+[ __ X]
    • kami-kaze vs. ori-gami
  • Lyman’s Law: X does not contain [+voi, -son]
    • taba ‘bundle’ satsu+taba ‘wad of bills’ (*satsu-daba)
  • g-weakening: non-initial /g/  [ŋ]
    • [gai+jiN] ‘foreigner’
    • [koku+ŋai] ‘abroad’
  • Rule interaction
    • R feeds GW: /ori+kami/  [oriŋami]
    • R counterfeeds GW: /saka+toge/ ‘reverse thorn/  [sakatoŋe]

If GW preceded R it would change g to ŋ and thereby feed R, resulting in *sakadoŋe

phonemes are also abstractions
Phonemes are also abstractions

Ambiguity: German devoicing






[Ads] [Ats]

[] = voiced uvular fricative cf. French, Hebrew

categorical perception vot
Categorization functions for synthetic stimuli ranging from [b] to [p]. Open circles indicate the percent of times that each stimulus was perceived as [b], and the filled circles indicate the percent of times that each stimulus was perceived as [p]. (Lisker and Abramson 1970)Categorical perception: VOT
hearing cs that aren t there i the mcgurk effect
Hearing Cs that aren’t there I:The McGurk effect
  • When hearing the sound BA, while seeingGA:
  • most adults (98%) think they are hearing DA

McGurk, H. and MacDonald, J. 1976. Hearing lips and seeing voices. Nature 264:746-8.

hearing cs that aren t there ii v formants c
Hearing Cs that aren’t there II:V formants   C 

Identification of burstless stops with different vowels:

transitions areall you need!

Delattre, Liberman, & Cooper (1955) JASA 27, 769-773

phonemes vs allophones
Phonemes vs. allophones
  • t : th in English (allophonic) vs. Thai (phonemic)
    • Speakers produce consistent and finely controlled distinctions between allophones
    • When measured experimentally, subjects typically distinguish allophones at above chance levels, but much less easily and well than phoneme pairs
      • for aspiration in English, see Pegg & Werker 1997, Whalen et al. 1997, Utman et al. 2000, Jones 2001
phoneme vs allophone
Phoneme vs. allophone

Phonemes can distinguish meaning (flight : fright)

Allophones don’t

phonological mediation
Phonological mediation
  • In semantic disambiguation tasks, the phonology of a word interfered with the disambiguation process even when the reader had access to its semantic representations (Van Orden 1987).
    • reader was presented with IS THIS A FLOWER?
    • followed by the presentation of ROWS
    • Correct response accuracy for such sentence-target pair was significantly lower when the targets shared a phonological representation with a word neighbor that semantically fit the question (i.e., ROSE).
    • when the subject had the ability to resolve the task with the correct answer (NO) phonological information intervened.
letter priming
Letter priming
  • Lee and Turvey 2003
    • forms with deleted silent letters (SALM, COLUM) prime better than forms with deleted pronounced letters (COUSI)
    • Conclusion: phonological representations are activated during visual word recognition.
backwards english
Backwards English
  • Cowan & Leavitt 1992 study of one woman
    • Example: garage [graž] reversed as [žarg]
    • Evidence that she reverses phonemes (rather than letters):
      • 1. no silent letters pronounced in reverse forms
      • 2. homographs were always pronounced differently (two <g>'s in garage)
    • Not functioning as reversed tape recorders:
      • Compound units (diphthongs and affricates) were consistently preserved as units rather than being reversed.
      • choice [tšojs] was reversed as [sojtš] (rather than *[sjošt])
  • Procedure
    • Invert syllables (in polysyllabic words)
      • L’envers ‘the reverse’ → [verlan], femme ‘woman’ → meuf
      • Cf. Spanish Vesre, which inverts syllable order, e.g. muchacho → chochamu
    • Drop final vowel
  • What to do with monosyllables?
    • Include final optional schwa, if there is one
    • moi [mwa] ‘me’ → ouam [wam]
    • fou [fu] ‘crazy’ → ouf
  • Viens chez ouam soir-ce y'a une teuf de ouf, je suis avec l'autre nasbo, j ai du sky et la race de beuh
    • ‘Come to my place tonight there is a huge party, I'm with this hot chick, I've got some whiskey and a lot of weed’
    • teuf - fête ‘party’, nasbo = bonasse ‘hot chick’, sky = whiskey, beuh = herbe ‘weed’
  • Key for us: monosyllables  inversion of phonemes
  • Words are not acoustic signals, but rather abstract mental representations of language.
  • Words in turn are composed of abstract phonemes, which are again abstract mental symbols rather than elements of the physical world.

Bedore, L., L. Leonard, and Jack Gandour. 1994. The substitution of a click for sibilants: a case study. Clinical linguistics & phonetics 8.4:283-293.

Bishop, D. and J. Robson. 1989. Accurate non-word spelling despite congenital inability to speak: phoneme-grapheme conversion does not require subvocal articulation. British Journal of Psychology 80.1:1-13.

Burzio, Luigi. 1998. Multiple Correspondence. Lingua 104:79-109.

Bybee, Joan. 2001. Phonology and Language Use. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cowan, Nelson & L. Leavitt. 1992. Speakers' access to the phonological structure of the syllable in word games. In M. Ziolkowski, M. Noske, & K. Deaton (eds.), Papers from the 26th Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, Volume 2: The Parasession On the Syllable in Phonetics and Phonology. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.

Cruttenden, Alan. 1985. Language in infancy and childhood, second edition. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Delattre, P., Alvin Liberman, & F. Cooper. 1955. Acoustic loci and transitional cues for consonants. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 27.4:769-773.

Faber, Alice & Cathi Best. 1994. The perceptual infrastructure of early phonological development. In R. Corrigan, G. Iverson, & S. D. Lima, eds., The reality of phonological rules, pp. 261-280. Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Ferguson, Charles. 1986. Discovering sound units and constructing sound systems: it’s child’s play. In Invariance and variability of speech processes, Joseph Perkell and Dennis Klatt, eds., 36-51. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Hirsh-Pasek, Kathy, & Roberta Golinkoff. 1993. Skeletal supports for grammatical learning: What the infant brings to the language learning task. In C. K. Rovee-Collier & L. P. Lipsitt, eds., Advances in infancy research, Vol. 8, pp. 299-338. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Ito, Junko and Armin Mester. 2003. Japanese morphophonemics: markedness and word structure. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Johnson, Keith, Dominic Pisoni, and R. Bernacki. 1990. Do voice recordings reveal whether a person is intoxicated? A case study. Phonetica 47.3-4:215-37.

Jongman, Allard. 2004. Phonological and Phonetic Representations: The Case of Neutralization. Proceedings of the 2003 Texas Linguistics Society Conference: Coarticulation in Speech Production and Perception, Augustine Agwuele, Willis Warren, and Sang-Hoon Park, eds., pp. 9-16.

Krifi et al. 2003: phonological features shared between (phonological correspondents of) graphemes increase priming effects

Lee, Chang and M. Turvey. 2003. Silent Letters and Phonological Priming. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 32.3:313-333.

Lisker, Leigh and Arthur Abramson. 1970. The voicing dimension: some experiments in comparative phonetics. Proceedings of the Sixth International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (1967), Prague.

McGurk, H. and MacDonald, J. 1976. Hearing lips and seeing voices. Nature 264:746-8.

Olson, A. and Alfonso Caramazza. 2004. Orthographic structure and deaf spelling errors: syllables, letter frequency, and speech. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology A 57.3:385-417.

Pegg, J. & Janet Werker. 1997. Adult and infant perception of two English phones. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 102:3742–3753.

Piras, F. and P. Marangolo. 2004. Independent access to phonological and orthographic lexical representations: a replication study. Neurocase 10.4:300-7.

Remez, R., P. Rubin, D. Pisoni, and T. Carrell. 1981. Speech perception without traditional speech cues. Science 212:947-50.

Sapir, Edward. 1933. La réalité psychologique des phonèmes [The psychological reality of phonemes]. Journal de Psychologie Normale et Patholoique 30:247-265. [Reprinted in English translation in his 1949 selected writings.]

Sumner, Megan. 2003. Testing the abstractness of phonological representations in Modern Hebrew weak verbs. Doctoral dissertation, State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Van Orden, G. 1987. A ROWS is a ROSE: spelling, sound, and reading. Memory and Cognition 15.3:181-198.