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Title:The Initial and Final States: Theoretical Implications and Experimental Explorations of Richness of the Base
Authors:Paul Smolensky, Lisa Davidson, Peter Jusczyk
Comment:51 pages. To appear as Chapter 16,
Abstract:The Initial and Final State: Theoretical Implications and

Empirical Explorations of Richness of the Base

Paul Smolensky, Lisa Davidson, and Peter Jusczyk

Johns Hopkins University

One of the more elusive aspects of Optimality Theory, the Richness of

the Base principle asserts that all regular language-particular

patterns are imposed by the grammar on its outputs, with no

corresponding structure present in the inputs to the grammar. A

theoretical consequence for the final state of the grammar of a

language lacking X is that markedness constraints M prohibiting X must

outrank faithfulness constraints F demanding preservation of X in the

input/output mapping. Frequently no explicit evidence for this final

ranking is provided by the grammar, since there is often no need to

posit X in any underlying forms. Thus a further consequence is that if

such a final state is to be learnable, the ranking M >> F must be

imposed by the learning process, and already be present in the initial

state of the grammar. In this paper we present empirical paradigms we

are developing to assess these predictions of Richness of the Base.

INITIAL STATE. Infants from 4.5 to 20 months of age were

presented triples of syllables of the form 'A B AB' in which 'AB' was

either a faithful concatenation of A and B, or one in which a

markedness-reducing sound change had occurred. Under the hypothesis

that infants prefer stimuli which conform to their grammar, and the

interpretation /A + B/ -> [AB], the prediction of Richness of the Base

is that sound-change stimuli should be prefered over faithful but

marked stimuli. This was confirmed by the Headturn Preference Procedure

for children at 4.5, 10 and 20 months, although no significant

difference was found at 15 months.

FINAL STATE. Adult English speakers' productions of non-English

onset clusters were elicited. We sought an experimental paradigm that

would induce speakers to subject non-native inputs to their English

grammars, to quantitatively assess the predictions of Richness of the Base

that non-English clusters would be repaired to meet the requirements of

English syllable structure. In the condition that best approximated this

prediction, non-English clusters divided into several groups which could

be ordered according to their probability of repair. Appropriate

interaction of independently motivated constraints can account for the

relative markedness of different non-English clusters, suggesting a final

English ranking that makes such distinctions, without apparent motivation

in the English data in which none of these clusters appear. Possible

analyses of how such a ranking might arise are suggested. Such 'hidden

rankings' in the final state are important for pursuing the hypothesis

that the initial state for L2 acquisition is the final state for L1.

Type:Paper/tech report
Area/Keywords:Language Acquisition,Phonology
Article:Version 1