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Review of  Papers in Laboratory Phonology V: Language Acquisition and the Lexicon

Reviewer: Marija Tabain
Book Title: Papers in Laboratory Phonology V: Language Acquisition and the Lexicon
Book Author: Michael Broe Janet B Pierrehumbert
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics
Issue Number: 12.1991

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Broe, M. & Pierrehumbert, Janet (2000) Papers in Laboratory Phonology V:
Acquisition and the Lexicon. Cambridge University Press, hardback ISBN:
0-521-64363-5, xii+400pp.

Marija Tabain, Institut de la Communication Parlee, Grenoble, France.

Please note the original announcement of the book, which gives a list of
the contents:

As was the case with its 4 predecessors, the contents of "Papers in
Laboratory Phonology V" are exciting both for the speech researcher who
is interested in linguistic input, and to the linguist who is interested
in an empirical basis to language theories. The papers in this
collection were originally presented at the 5th conference on Laboratory
Phonology at Northwestern University in 1996. The Laboratory Phonology
series of conferences was conceived by John Kingston and Mary Beckman in
1987 (and inspired by Janet Pierrehumbert's work on the phonetics and
phonology of English intonation - Pierrehumbert, 1980) and the collected
papers which follow each conference have become a research reference
which belongs on the shelf of any linguistic or speech research library.
The motivation for such a series was to bring phonetics and phonology
closer together, primarily, I believe, by testing current phonological
theories with real phonetic data. Although certain papers (such as that
by Hajek & Maeda on the universals of nasalization) do this quite
clearly, it could be argued that other papers in the collection accept
the phonological categories as given, and simply try to describe the
effects on speech of these chosen phonological structures (work in the
Articulatory Prosody framework, of which the paper by Byrd, Kaun,
Narayanan & Saltzman in the present collection is an example, could be
accused of this, since such work usually takes a prosodic structure in a
language as given, and tries to describe how the supralaryngeal
articulation is affected by its position in the prosodic hierarchy).
The current collection of papers, again like most of its predecessors,
presents work in several sub-areas of phonetics-phonology research. This
is particularly stimulating, since the potential reader may be
relatively familiar with the research in one subset of papers, while
another set of papers presents research with which the same reader has
at best a passing acquaintance. The present collection of papers is
divided into three sections: Section I is entitled "Articulation and
Mental Representations"; Section II is entitled "Tone and Intonation";
and Section III is entitled "Acquisition and Lexical Representation". I
am personally least familiar with the work presented in "Acquisition and
Lexical Representation" (Section III), and hence will only make a brief
comment below on one particular result that struck me, and which seemed
to me typical of most of the results presented in this section. Although
this section makes up about half of the papers presented, and lends its
(approximated) name to the book's title, it by no means dominates the
book (and hence is perhaps a misleading choice as the subtitle to the
present collection). The other two sections, "Articulation and Mental
Representations" and "Tone and Intonation" present important work in
their own sub-areas (indeed, I have seen papers from the first section
"Articulation and Mental Representations" cited in journal papers for
2-3 years now, since the papers in this series often circulate in draft
form well before publication date - see gripes regarding publication
date below). It is interesting that the second section "Tone and
Intonation" comprises only one sixth of the papers presented (Section I,
by deduction, comprises roughly one third of the papers presented),
since, as mentioned above, the original inspiration for the Laboratory
Phonology (LP) series was Pierrehumbert's work on intonation. The fact
that the LP approach has expanded to include other sub-areas of
phonetics-phonology, such as those represented in sections I and III
here, is indicative of the need felt by many researchers in phonetics
and phonology for more explanatory power in their work.
Since the individual papers in this book cover such different topics
within phonetics-phonology, I will not attempt to provide a summary of
all the papers, nor even of a substantial part of the papers. I will
simply make some brief "potted" observations on results and trends that
struck me as I read through the chapters in the book.
Perhaps the most pleasantly surprising feature of the volume is the
incredible variety of methodological approaches presented in the first
section "Articulation and Mental Representations". One of the more
interesting papers in this section is that by Hajek & Maeda, where a
survey of linguistic typology and of the perceptual literature on
nasalization and sound change suggests that there is a close link
between vowel duration and perceived nasalization, and that this in turn
influences phonologization of the nasal feature. Other papers present
results based on acoustic and articulatory analyses (the papers by
Kondo, and by Harrington, Fletcher & Beckman) while others present
models (Munhall, Kawato & Vatikiotis-Bateson), and still others combine
the two, using data to support or refine their models (Byrd et al., and
Saltzman, Lofqvist & Mitra, both of which present work within the Task
Dynamic framework - Saltzman & Munhall, 1989). I found the paper by
Harrington et al. interesting in that it shows that, even in
phonological terms, speech often manifests a resolution of competing
constraints. Using as their point of departure the fact that the vowel
/a/ becomes lower (and hence, due to a lower jaw position, more
"sonorous", as well as more peripheral) in a stressed (as opposed to an
unstressed) syllable, Harrington et al. examined the vowel /i/ in
stressed vs. unstressed syllables. Their motivation was the fact that a
more peripheral vowel and a more sonorous vowel are less compatible in
the case of a high vowel than in the case of a low vowel (since a more
peripheral /i/ involves a greater constriction in the oral cavity, and
hence reduces sonority). Harrington et al. found that speakers attempt
to make the /i/ both more peripheral as well as more sonorous. Speakers
both lower the jaw, *and* raise or front the tongue. By lowering the
jaw, overall energy is increased, whereas by raising or fronting the
tongue, the vowel becomes more peripheral. The authors mention the
acoustic data only in passing (there are no tables or figures), so it is
not clear a) whether a potentially higher F1 due to a lower jaw is
compensated for by a higher tongue position, and b) how the increased
energy due to the lower jaw is compromised by the higher tongue position
(although it appears that overall energy is increased). Regardless of
the acoustic outcome, however, the authors make a convincing case for
both the increased sonority and increased peripherality strategies for
/i/ being implemented by a single speaker.
One aspect of the current volume that is particularly pleasing is the
quality of the commentaries. It is a feature of the LP series that each
section or sub-section of papers is followed by a commentary, written by
a respected researcher in the field. The commentator usually attempts to
identify common themes in the papers, and usually makes some pertinent
criticisms. In the present collection, I found that the commentaries
were a significant work in themselves. The commentary by John Coleman
(entitled "Where is coarticulation?") was a particularly challenging
read. His criticisms on p. 113 of the work by Byrd et al. go to the
heart of much empirical work within the Task Dynamic model: Coleman
suggests that the empirical results presented do not favour the Task
Dynamic model over any other model of speech, and that hence much of the
confusing terminology associated with this model (involving radians, for
example) should be replaced by more readily understandable terms (such
as seconds). For the Coleman commentary as well as the other
commentaries, the work that must have gone into understanding the papers
presented is impressive.
I will finally mention one result (in the section "Acquisition and
Lexical Representation") that I found particularly interesting as an
non-psycholinguist. Treiman, Kessler, Knewasser, Tincoff & Bowman, in a
paper entitled "English speakers' sensitivity to phonotactic patterns",
show quite clearly that speakers are sensitive not just to the
permissible vs. non-permissible status of a syllable structure, but also
to the *frequency* with which a particular syllable structure occurs in
the everyday lexicon. For instance, the sequence /@:p/ as in "burp", and
/@:k/ as in "work" are both permissible in English, but the latter is
statistically more common than the former. Treiman et al. found that
speakers are more likely to rate a non-word such as /n@:k/ more
"word-like" than a non-word such as /n@:p/. They found that this
sensitivity to syllable frequency was already present in some children
in the second year of schooling. Moreover, this sensitivity affected
speakers' responses in a blending task (a blending task is where a
speaker is given two words, and told to blend them to make one word: for
instance, given the non-words /n@:p/ and /jig/, the possible answers are
/n@:g, nig, j@:p, jip/, where words 2 and 3 in this list leave the
syllable rime of the stimulus words intact, and words 1 and 4 break up
the syllable rime). Although there was an overall preference for
speakers to leave the syllable rime intact, it was much more likely,
particular early on in the task, for an unfrequent, phonotactically
permissible syllable to have its rime split up, than for a frequent,
phonotactically permissible syllable to have its rime split up. Such
results strongly suggest that it is not sufficient to describe a
speaker's competence simply in terms of their knowledge of
phonotactically permissible syllables: it is also crucial to describe a
speaker's knowledge of the frequency of a given syllable structure in
their language. The results in the Treiman et al. paper are typical of
other results presented in the same section, in that they make clear the
importance of stochastic models of language (competence, as well as)
One quibble I have with the LP series is that the papers are presented
without an accompanying abstract. Whilst some authors are good at
organizing their papers so that it is easy for the reader to (re-)find
the important results, it is by no means true that all authors have this
talent. It would be useful if future collections included abstracts for
each paper, in order to make it easier for readers to summarize results
when writing their own papers (or book reviews!).
I have only one severe criticism of this collection and have left it
till last, since by putting it first I would have implied that the
quality of the collection suffered as a consequence of this fault (not
so), and by putting it elsewhere in the review, I would have implied
that the criticism was unimportant (also not true). My criticism is the
following: what is most unfortunate about this collection is that it has
taken 4 years for these papers to be put together. The conference at
which these papers were first presented took place in 1996, yet the
official publication date of the present volume is 2000 (most libraries
and individuals would, of course, only receive the book in 2001). There
can be no doubt that putting together a collection of papers such as
this is a complicated process: all authors must write their papers, all
papers must be reviewed, all authors must make corrections etc. There
must, however, be a way to speed up this process, not only for the sake
of the reading public, but for the sake of the authors themselves, who
must be extremely frustrated at having to wait 4 years for their work to
appear in print (as a random example, I looked at Dani Byrd's web-page,
and saw that she had 4 publications in international journals between
1997 and 2000, all of which are related to or elaborate on the work
presented in the current volume). It is to be hoped that the papers from
the two most recent Laboratory Phonology conferences (Lab Phon VI at the
University of York, U.K., and Lab Phon VII in Nijmegen, the Netherlands)
will make their appearance comparatively earlier.

Pierrehumbert, J. (1980) "The phonetics and phonology of English
intonation", PhD dissertation, MIT.

Saltzman & Munhall (1989) "A dynamical approach to gestural patterning
in speech production" Ecological Psychology, 1, 333-382.


Marija Tabain received her Ph.D. in experimental phonetics from
Macquarie University, Sydney, in 1999, for a thesis entitled
"Articulatory and acoustic aspects of coarticulation in CV syllables".
She has published in "Journal of Phonetics", "Phonetica" and "Language
and Speech". Her research interests include acoustic and articulatory
phonetics, cross-linguistic phonetics and phonology, coarticulation,
articulatory prosody and Australian languages. She is currently a
postdoctoral research fellow at the Institut de la Communication Parlee
in Grenoble, France.


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