Does Learning Alternations Affect Phonotactic Judgments?

Presley Pizzo, Joe Pater


It has long been recognized that alternations often serve to resolve violations of the
phonotactic constraints of a language, and it has often been claimed that this entails a
unified analysis. However, alternations and phonotactics do not always reflect identical constraints or processes. We provide experimental evidence that the learning of an alternation may affect phonotactic judgments.

Participants were trained on one of two artificial languages. Each language contained evidence for one of two alternations, while not excluding the possibility that the other alternation occurs. The constraints motivating the alternations were not violated in either language. All participants were then tested on their phonotactic preference for the sequences avoided by each alternation. Experiment 1 found a significant interaction between alternation trained on and phonotactic preference, supporting the hypothesis that the learning of an alternation to avoid a sequence reduces the phonotactic acceptability of that sequence. Experiment 2 found a nonsignificant trend in the same direction. We conclude that while further investigation is needed, there is reason to consider potential interactions between alternations and phonotactics in the modeling of phonological learning.


Alternations; Phonotactics; Optimality Theory; Artificial Language Learning

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Copyright (c) 2016 Presley Pizzo, Joe Pater

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