Listeners learn phonotactic patterns conditioned on suprasegmental cues

Published in: The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, Volume 70, Issue 12, 2560-2576

“Language learners are sensitive to phonotactic patterns from an early age, and can acquire both simple and 2nd-order positional restrictions contingent on segment identity (e.g., /f/ is an onset with /æ/but a coda with /ɪ/). The present study explored the learning of phonototactic patterns conditioned on a suprasegmental cue: lexical stress. Adults first heard non-words in which trochaic and iambic items had different consonant restrictions. In Experiment 1, participants trained with phonotactic patterns involving natural classes of consonants later falsely recognized novel items that were consistent with the training patterns (legal items), demonstrating that they had learned the stress-conditioned phonotactic patterns. However, this was only true for iambic items. In Experiment 2, participants completed a forced-choice test between novel legal and novel illegal items and were again successful only for the iambic items. Experiment 3 demonstrated learning for trochaic items when they were presented alone. Finally, in Experiment 4, in which the training phase was lengthened, participants successfully learned both sets of phonotactic patterns. These experiments provide evidence that learners consider more global phonological properties in the computation of phonotactic patterns, and that learners can acquire multiple sets of patterns simultaneously, even contradictory ones.”

Written by: Katherine S. White, Kyle E. Chambers, Zachary Miller, Vibhuti Jethava
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