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Phonological Acquisition and Theory Construction

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This paper surveys a range of core phonological effects in first- and second-languageacquisition: (i) spontaneous emergence of opacity in acquisition of L1 (Jesney 2005) and L2 (Idsardi 2002), derived environment effects (Kiparsky and Menn 1987, Eckman and Iverson 1995), and unnatural processes (Smith 1973, Bedore et al. 1994, Edwards 1996, Gierut and Champion 2000);

(ii) inter- and intra-grammar variation (Tropf 1987, Vihman and Greenlee 1987, Vaux 2005);

(iii) convention/hypergeneralisation (abstraction of rules in the absence of unambiguous evidence; Tenenbaum 1999, Vaux 2006) and the 3-exposures-togeneralisation rule (LouAnn Gerken, p.c.);

(iv) interlanguage (Vaux 2005);

(v) avoidance (Celce-Murcia 1977, Kellerman 1977); and investigates their implications for phonological theory. Specifically, the surveyed effects are shown to be: a. incompatible with parallelist models such as Optimality Theory and Connectionism and their attendant learning theories (the Gradual Learning Algorithm (Boersma and Hayes 2001), Recursive Constraint Demotion (Tesar & Smolensky 2000), and error-driven learning (Gluck 1991 inter alia));

b. consistent with a theory in which phonological generalisations are captured in the form of ordered, deterministic, symbolic rules abstracted from the primary linguistic data by general cognitive mechanisms that employ informationtheoretic learning (Gallistel 2003) and strong-sampling Bayesian inference (Tenenbaum & Griffiths 2001).


Bedore, L., J. Leonard, and J. Gandour. 1994. The substitution of a click for sibilants: A case study. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics 8:283-293.

Boersma, Paul and Bruce Hayes. 2001. Empirical tests of the Gradual Learning Algorithm. Linguistic Inquiry 32:45-86.

Celce-Murcia, M. 1977. Phonological factors in vocabulary acquisition: a case study of a two-year-old English-French bilingual. Working Papers in Bilingualism 13:27-41.

Eckman, Fred, A. Elreyes, & Greg Iverson. 2003. Some Principles of Second Language Phonology. Second Language Research 19:169-208.

Edwards, Mary Louise. 1996. Word position effects in the production of fricatives. In Bernhardt, Barbara, John Gilbert and David Ingram (eds.), Proceedings of the UBC International Conference on Phonological Acquisition. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.

Gallistel, C. Randy. 2003. Conditioning from an information processing perspective. Behavioural Processes 1234:1-13.

Gierut, Judith and Annette Hust Champion. 2000. Ingressive substitutions: typical or atypical phonological pattern? Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics 14.8:603-617.

Gluck, M. 1991. Stimulus generalization and representation in adaptive network models of category learning. Psychological Science 2.1:50-55.

Idsardi, William. 2002. Further opacity issues: spontaneous L2 opacity. Proceedings of the 2002 LSK International Summer Conference.

Jesney, Karen. 2005. Chain Shift in Phonological Acquisition. Master’s thesis, University of Calgary.

Kellerman, E. 1977. Towards a characterization of the strategy of transfer in second language learning. Interlanguage Studies Bulletin 2:58-145.

Smith, Neil. 1973. The acquisition of phonology: A case study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tenenbaum, Joshua. 1999. A Bayesian framework for concept learning. Doctoral dissertation, MIT .

Tenenbaum, Joshua and Thomas Griffiths. 2001. Generalization, similarity, and Bayesian inference. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24.4:629-640.

Tesar, Bruce and Paul Smolesnky. 2000. Learnability in Optimality Theory. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Tropf, Herbert. 1987. Sonority as a variability factor in second language phonology. In Sound patterns in second language acquisition, James and Leather, eds., 173-191. Dordrecht: Foris.

Vaux, Bert. 2005. What Second Language Phonology tells us about the structure of the phonological component. Paper presented at the Association Internationale de Linguistique Appliquée, Madison, Wisconsin, July 25.

Vaux, Bert. 2006. Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Reductionism, with special reference to Language. Colloquium presentation at the Centre for Advanced Study in Theoretical Linguistics, University of Tromsø, 30 November.

Vihman, Marilyn and M. Greenlee. 1987. Individual differences in phonological development: ages one and three years. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 30:503-521.

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