J. L. McClelland
Mind, Brain & Computation/MBC, Psychology Department, Stanford

Graded constraints in English word forms

Tuesday 03rd of October 2006 at 12:00pm
3105 Tolman Hall (Beach Room)

I will a describe graded constraint theory of English word forms that addresses the distribution of forms in the lexicon, the goodness judgments given by native speakers of nonwords as candidate wordforms, and the pattern of errors seen in language impaired individuals including dysfluent aphasics and individuals with specific language impairment. The theory is applied to the rhymes of English monosyllabic monomorphemes (items like 'cat', 'hold' and 'clamp'). Within a template specifying possible rhymes, a number of graded constraints are identified. For example, in rhymes containing at least one stop consonant, there is a graded constraint favoring short vowels, a graded constraint favoring unvoiced vs voiced obstruents, a constraint favoring coronal articulation, and a constraint against added embellishments such as a nasal, fricative, liquid, or second stop consonant (as in 'apt'). Each constraint affects the goodness of a rhyme type in a graded, cumulative fashion. Occurrence rates of different types of rhymes in the language conform closely to the predictions of both non-parametric and parametric versions of the theory. By adding a cut-off threshold, the theory can explain with good accuracy which types of rhymes occur at all and which do not occur, although both linear and interaction terms are necessary to give a complete account. The theory also accounts well for native speaker's judgments of the relative goodness of different rhyme types, although there are subtle differences between the patterns of occurrence and the patterns of judgments.

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