15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-15)

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003

Phonotactic Knowledge and the Acquisition of Alternations

Joe Pater, Anne-Michelle Tessier

University of Massachusetts, USA

Phonological alternations often serve to modify forms so that they respect a phonotactic restriction that applies across the language. For example, the voicing alternation in the English plural produces word-final sequences that respect the general ban against a voiceless obstruent followed by a voiced one. Since Chomsky and Halle (1968), it has been assumed that an adequate theory of phonology should capture the connection between phonotactics and alternations by deriving them using a shared mechanism. There is, however, no psycholinguistic evidence that speakers actually do use a single mechanism to encode phonotactics and alternations. In this study, we used an artificial language learning experiment to test whether an alternation that meets a phonotactic target is easier to learn than one that does not. The initial results suggest that phonotactic knowledge does aid in the acquisition of alternations.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Pater, Joe / Tessier, Anne-Michelle (2003): "Phonotactic knowledge and the acquisition of alternations", In ICPhS-15, 1177-1180.