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Title:The Optimal Initial State
Authors:Shelley Velleman, Marilyn Vihman
Comment:Submitted to Journal of Linguistics, October 2002
Abstract:The ‘initial state’ of a child’s phonology has been much discussed but rarely empirically investigated within an Optimality Theory framework. The most common assumption has been that, at the onset of word production, all markedness constraints strictly dominate all faithfulness constraints. In this paper, the early phonologies of 20 children, five each learning one of four languages (English, French, Japanese, and Welsh), are analyzed for evidence of the ranking of markedness versus faithfulness phonotactic constraints. Neither markedness nor faithfulness constraints are found to consistently dominate in these phonologies, suggesting that, at the onset of word production, exposure to the distributional characteristics of the ambient language have already had a significant impact on the child's phonology. The results also provide empirical verification of the need for gradient constraint ranking during the acquisition process, and suggest that children may develop idiosyncratic markedness constraints in response to their experience of salient patterns in the ambient language.
Type:Paper/tech report
Article:Version 1