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Modeling domain-narrowing phonological change

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Stratal-cyclic models (e.g., Stratal OT, Lexical Phonology) allow for phonological processes to apply in multiple domains, adding another potential dimension for phonological change as a process’s domain may change with time. Post-nasal plosive deletion in English (Borowsky 1993) is an example of a process that narrowed its domain over time, applying first at only the phrase level, then at the phrase and word levels, and finally at the phrase, word, and stem levels (Bermudez-Otero, 2011). I’ll present a productivity-based computational acquisition model that can explain why such domain-narrowing changes occur and demonstrate through simulation that it will iteratively reanalyze post-nasal plosive deletion in the same sequence as the observed change. The model suggests that in order for this change to proceed, two things are required: ambiguity in the input as to in which level deletion occurred, and restrictions on phrase-level processes such as resyllabification. I’ll also examine the model’s prediction that in languages with lower stem/word-level ambiguity than English similar changes will not proceed to the stem level.

This talk is part of the King's Occasional Lectures series.

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