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Title:Phonological Acquisition in Optimality Theory: The Early Stages
Authors:Bruce Hayes
Abstract:Phonological Acquisition in Optimality Theory: The Early Stages

Bruce Hayes


Recent experimental work indicates that by the age of ten months,

infants have already learned a great deal about the phonotactics

(legal sounds and sound sequences) of their language. This learning

occurs before infants can utter words or apprehend most phonological

alternations. I will show that this early learning stage can be

straightforwardly modeled with Optimality Theory. Specifically, the

Markedness and Faithfulness constraints can be ranked so as to

characterize the phonotactics, even when no information about

morphology or phonological alternations is yet available. I will

also show how later on, the information acquired in infancy can

help the child in coming to grips with the alternation pattern.

I also propose a procedure for undoing the learning errors that are

likely to occur at the earliest stages.

There are two specific formal proposals. One is a constraint ranking

algorithm, based closely on Tesar and Smolensky's Constraint Demotion,

which mimics the early, "phonotactics only" form of learning seen in

infants. I illustrate the algorithm's effectiveness by having it

learn the phonotactic pattern of a simplified language modeled on

Korean. The other proposal is that there are three distinct default

rankings for phonological constraints: low for ordinary Faithfulness

(used in learning phonotactics); low for Faithfulness to adult forms

(in the child's own production system); and high for output-to-output

correspondence constraints.
Type:Paper/tech report
Article:Version 1