Biases in phonological processing and learning
Alexander Martin (University of Edinburgh)
Tuesday 17 Oct 2017, 11:00–12:30
G32 7 George Square
During speech perception, listeners are biased by a great number of factors, including cognitive limitations such as memory and attention and linguistic limitations such as their native language. In this talk, I will present my PhD work addressing two of these factors: processing bias during word recognition, and learning bias during the transmission process. These factors are combinatorial and can, over time, affect the way languages evolve. First, I will detail a study focusing on the importance of phonological features in word recognition, at both the perceptual and lexical levels, and discuss how speakers integrate information from these different sources. Second, I will present a series of experiments addressing the question of learning bias and its implications for the linguistic typology. Specifically, I will present artificial language learning experiments showing better learning of the typologically common pattern of vowel harmony compared to the exceedingly rare, but logically equivalent pattern of vowel disharmony. I will also present a simple simulation of the transmission of these patterns over time, showing better survival of harmonic patterns compared to disharmonic ones.