LINGUIST List 32.978

Wed Mar 17 2021

Books: The complexity and learnability of phonological patterns: Seinhorst

Editor for this issue: Billy Dickson <>

Date: 15-Mar-2021
From: Janacy van Duijn Genet <>
Subject: The complexity and learnability of phonological patterns: Seinhorst
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Title: The complexity and learnability of phonological patterns
Subtitle: Simulations, experiments, typology
Published: 2021
Publisher: Netherlands Graduate School of Linguistics / Landelijke (LOT)

Book URL:

Author: Klaas Seinhorst
Paperback: ISBN: 9789460933691 Pages: 224 Price: Europe EURO 32

This dissertation investigates the relation between the complexity of phonological patterns, their learnability by human learners, and their typological distributions.

The research presented in this book is divided into three parts. The first part is dedicated to computational evidence and aims to show how the building blocks of phonological patterns emerge in a neural network as it is exposed to auditory and lexical distributions. Taking a diachronic approach, I show that sound systems evolve towards stable states, regardless of their initial distribution.

The second part describes two experiments with human learners, establishing the learnability of a number of phonological patterns of various degrees of complexity. The results suggest that more complex patterns are more difficult to learn, and that learners reduce the complexity of their input if possible.

The third part assesses attested sound changes and plosive inventories in terms of their complexity. The typological data show that sound change does not necessarily reduce complexity, and that plosive inventories differ greatly in terms of their complexity. The tension between the experimental and typological data sheds light on the interaction of different forces – cognitive, auditory and articulatory – that shape phonological typology.

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition

Written In: English (eng)

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Page Updated: 17-Mar-2021