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LINGUIST List 19.3260

Tue Oct 28 2008

Diss: Lang Acq/Phonology/Psycholing: Richtsmeier: 'From Perception ...'

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        1.    Peter Richtsmeier, From Perception to Production: Generalizing phonotactic probabilities in language acquisition


Message 1: From Perception to Production: Generalizing phonotactic probabilities in language acquisition
Date: 28-Oct-2008
From: Peter Richtsmeier <prichtsmeierku.edu>
Subject: From Perception to Production: Generalizing phonotactic probabilities in language acquisition
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Institution: University of Arizona
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2008

Author: Peter T Richtsmeier

Dissertation Title: From Perception to Production: Generalizing phonotactic probabilities in language acquisition

Dissertation URL: http://www.people.ku.edu/~prichtsmeier/dissertation.html

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition
                            Phonology
                            Psycholinguistics

Dissertation Director:
Diane K Ohala
Andrew Lotto
LouAnn Gerken

Dissertation Abstract:

Phonotactics are the restrictions on sound sequences within a word or
syllable. They are an important cue for speech segmentation and a guiding
force in the creation of new words. By studying phonotactics, we stand to
gain a better understanding of why languages and speakers have phonologies.
Through a series of four experiments, I will present data that sharpen our
theoretical and empirical perspectives of what phonotactics are and how
they are acquired.

The methodology is similar to that used in studies of infant perception:
children are familiarized with a set of words that contain either a few or
many examples of a phonotactic sequence. The participants here are
four-year-olds, and the test involves producing a target phonotactic
sequence in a new word. Because the test words have not been encountered
before, children must generalize what they learned in the familiarization
phase and apply it to their own speech. By manipulating the phonetic and
phonological characteristics of the familiarization items, we can determine
which factors are relevant to phonotactic learning. In these experiments,
the phonetic manipulation was the number of talkers who children heard
produce a familiarization word. The phonological manipulation was the
number of familiarization words that shared a phonotactic pattern.

The findings include instances where learning occurs and instances where it
does not. First, the data show that the well-studied correlation between
phonotactic probability and production accuracy in child speech can be
attributed, at least partly to perceptual learning, rather than a practice
effect attributable to repeated articulation. Second, the data show that
perceptual learning is a process of abstraction and learning about those
abstractions. It is not about making connections between stored,
unelaborated exemplars because learning from the phonetic manipulation
alone was insufficient for a phonotactic pattern to generalize.
Furthermore, perceptual learning is not about reorganizing pre-existing
symbolic knowledge, because learning from words alone is insufficient. I
argue that a model which learns abstract word-forms from direct phonetic
experience, then learns phonotactics from the abstract word-forms, is the
most parsimonious explanation of phonotactic learning.



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