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Trajectories of faithfulness in child-specific phonology*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 July 2011

Michael Becker
Harvard University
Anne-Michelle Tessier
University of Alberta


This paper provides new evidence and analysis of gradual and U-shaped phonological learning. Using a rich longitudinal corpus from Trevor (Compton & Streeter 1977, Pater 1997b) we demonstrate that some of Trevor's consonant harmony follows a statistically significant U-shaped trajectory, in contrast to the more typical S-shaped progression of his complex onsets. We then analyse these two developmental paths using an OT model of phonological acquisition (Hayes 2004, Prince & Tesar 2004, Tessier 2007, 2009), in which the learner's variation within and across stages is the effect of stored old productions rather than a variable grammar. The decrease in Trevor's faithfulness to place of articulation due to consonant harmony is attributed to the induction of a new constraint during the course of learning. Our analysis is paired with a computational implementation, showing how competition between old forms and the current grammar allows the model to derive both S-shaped and U-shaped patterns.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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