Skip to main content Accessibility help

Feature-based generalisation as a source of gradient acceptability*

  • Adam Albright (a1)


Phonological judgements are often gradient: blick>?bwick>*bnick>**bzick. The mechanisms behind gradient generalisation remain controversial, however. This paper tests the role of phonological features in helping speakers evaluate which novel combinations receive greater lexical support. A model is proposed in which the acceptability of a string is based on the most probable combination of natural classes that it instantiates. The model is tested on its ability to predict acceptability ratings of nonce words, and its predictions are compared against those of models that lack features or economise on feature specifications. The proposed model achieves the best balance of performance on attested and unattested sequences, and is a significant predictor of acceptability even after the other models are factored out. The feature-based model's predictions do not completely subsume those of simpler models, however. This may indicate multiple levels of evaluation, involving segment-based phonotactic probability and feature-based gradient phonological grammaticality.



Hide All
Albright, Adam (2002a). Islands of reliability for regular morphology: evidence from Italian. Lg 78. 684709.
Albright, Adam (2002b). The lexical bases of morphological well-formedness. In Bendjaballah, Sabrina, Dressler, Wolfgang U., Pfeiffer, Oskar E. & Voeikova, Maria D. (eds.) Morphology 2000. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: Benjamins. 515.
Albright, Adam & Hayes, Bruce (2002). Modeling English past tense intuitions with minimal generalization. In Maxwell, Mike (ed.) Proceedings of the 6th Meeting of the ACL Special Interest Group on Computational Phonology. Philadelphia: Association for Computational Linguistics. 5869.
Albright, Adam & Hayes, Bruce (2003). Rules vs. analogy in English past tenses: a computational/experimental study. Cognition 90. 119161.
Auer, Edward T. Jr. & Luce, Paul A. (2005). Probabilistic phonotactics in spoken word recognition. In Pisoni, David B. & Remez, Robert E. (eds.) The handbook of speech perception. Malden, Mass. & Oxford: Blackwell. 610630.
Baayen, R. H. (2008). Analyzing linguistic data: a practical introduction to statistics using R. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Baayen, R. H., Piepenbrock, Richard & van Rijn, Hedderik (1993). The CELEX lexical data base. [CD-ROM.] Philadelphia: Linguistic Data Consortium, University of Pennsylvania.
Bailey, Todd M. & Hahn, Ulrike (2001). Determinants of wordlikeness: phonotactics or lexical neighborhoods? Journal of Memory and Language 44. 568591.
Bates, David, Maechler, Martin & Dai, Bin (2008). The lme4 Package (Version 0.999375-28): linear mixed-effects models using S4 classes. Available (March 2009) at
Berent, Iris, Steriade, Donca, Lennertz, Tracy & Vaknin, Vered (2007). What we know about what we have never heard: evidence from perceptual illusions. Cognition 104. 591630.
Berko, Jean (1958). The child's learning of English morphology. Word 14. 150177.
Berwick, Robert C. (1986). Learning from positive-only examples: the subset principle and three case studies. In Carbonell, Jaime Guillermo, Michalski, Ryszard S. & Mitchell, Tom M. (eds.) Machine learning: an artificial intelligence approach. Vol. 2. Los Altos, Ca.: Kaufmann. 625645.
Buchwald, Adam (2007). Determining well-formedness in phonology: type vs. token frequency. Paper presented at the 81st Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America, Anaheim.
Bybee, Joan (1995). Regular morphology and the lexicon. Language and Cognitive Processes 10. 425455.
Chomsky, Noam & Halle, Morris (1968). The sound pattern of English. New York: Harper & Row.
Clements, G. N. & Keyser, Samuel J. (1983). CV phonology: a generative theory of the syllable. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Coleman, John & Pierrehumbert, Janet (1997). Stochastic phonological grammars and acceptability. In Coleman, John (ed.) Proceedings of the 3rd Meeting of the ACL Special Interest Group in Computational Phonology. Somerset, NJ: Association for Computational Linguistics. 4956.
Coltheart, Max, Davelaar, Eileen, Jonasson, Jon Torfi & Besner, Derek (1977). Access to the internal lexicon. In Dornic, Stan (ed.) Attention and performance. Vol. 6. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. 535555.
Davis, Stuart (1984). Some implications of onset-coda constraints for syllable phonology. CLS 20. 4651.
Frisch, Stefan A., Large, Nathan R. & Pisoni, David B. (2000). Perception of wordlikeness: effects of segment probability and length on the processing of nonwords. Journal of Memory and Language 42. 481496.
Greenberg, Joseph H. & Jenkins, James J. (1964). Studies in the psychological correlates of the sound system of American English. Word 20. 157177.
Hammond, Michael (1999). The phonology of English: a prosodic optimality-theoretic approach. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hay, Jennifer (2003). Causes and consequences of word structure. New York & London: Routledge.
Hay, Jennifer, Pierrehumbert, Janet & Beckman, Mary E. (2004). Speech perception, well-formedness and the statistics of the lexicon. In Local, John, Ogden, Richard & Temple, Rosalind (eds.) Phonetic interpretation: papers in laboratory phonology VI. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 5874.
Hayes, Bruce (2004). Phonological acquisition in Optimality Theory: the early stages. In Kager et al. (2004). 158203.
Hayes, Bruce & Wilson, Colin (2008). A maximum entropy model of phonotactics and phonotactic learning. LI 39. 379440.
Jurafsky, Daniel & Martin, James H. (2000). Speech and language processing: an introduction to natural language processing, computational linguistics, and speech recognition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Jusczyk, Peter W., Luce, Paul A. & Charles-Luce, Jan (1994). Infants' sensitivity to phonotactic patterns in the native language. Journal of Memory and Language 33. 630645.
Kager, René, Pater, Joe & Zonneveld, Wim (eds.) (2004). Constraints in phonological acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kendall, Maurice G. (1990). Rank correlation methods. 5th edn. New York: Oxford University Press.
Kessler, Brett & Treiman, Rebecca (1997). Syllable structure and the distribution of phonemes in English syllables. Journal of Memory and Language 37. 295311.
Luce, Paul A. (1986). Neighborhoods of words in the mental lexicon. Technical report, Speech Research Laboratory, Department of Psychology, Indiana University.
Luce, Paul A. & Pisoni, David B. (1998). Recognizing spoken words: the neighborhood activation model. Ear and Hearing 19. 136.
Newman, Rochelle S., Sawusch, James R. & Luce, Paul A. (1997). Lexical neighborhood effects in phonetic processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 23. 873889.
Nosofsky, Robert M. (1986). Attention, similarity, and the identification–categorization relationship. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 115. 3957.
Ohala, John J. & Ohala, Manjari (1986). Testing hypotheses regarding the psychological manifestation of morpheme structure constraints. In Ohala, John J. & Jaeger, Jeri (eds.) Experimental phonology. Orlando: Academic Press. 239252.
Pierrehumbert, Janet B. (2001). Exemplar dynamics: word frequency, lenition and contrast. In Bybee, Joan & Hopper, Paul (eds.) Frequency and the emergence of linguistic structure. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: Benjamins. 137157.
Pinheiro, José C. & Bates, Douglas M. (2000). Mixed-effects models in S and S-PLUS. New York: Springer.
Pitt, Mark A. & McQueen, James M. (1998). Is compensation for coarticulation mediated by the lexicon? Journal of Memory and Language 39. 347370.
Prasada, Sandeep & Pinker, Steven (1993). Generalization of regular and irregular morphological patterns. Language and Cognitive Processes 8. 156.
Prince, Alan & Smolensky, Paul (2004). Optimality Theory: constraint interaction in generative grammar. Malden, Mass. & Oxford: Blackwell.
Prince, Alan & Tesar, Bruce (2004). Learning phonotactic distributions. In Kager, et al. (2004). 245291.
R Development Core Team (2008). R: a language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing. Available (March 2009) at
Ramscar, Michael & Yarlett, Daniel (2003). Semantic grounding in models of analogy: an environmental approach. Cognitive Science 27. 4171.
Saul, Lawrence & Pereira, Fernando (1997). Aggregate and mixed-order Markov models for statistical language processing. In Cardie, Claire & Weischedel, Ralph (eds.) Proceedings of the 2nd Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing. Somerset, NJ: Association for Computational Linguistics. 8189.
Scholes, Robert J. (1966). Phonotactic grammaticality. The Hague: Mouton.
Schütze, Carson T. (2005). Thinking about what we are asking speakers to do. In Kepser, Stephan & Reis, Marga (eds.) Linguistic evidence: empirical, theoretical and computational perspectives. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter. 457484.
Selkirk, Elizabeth O. (1982). The syllable. In Hulst, Harry van der & Smith, Norval (eds.) The structure of phonological representations. Part 2. Dordrecht: Foris. 337384.
Sendlmeier, Walter F. (1987). Auditive judgements of word similarity. Zeitschrift für Phonetik, Sprachwissenschaft und Kommunikationsforschung 40. 538547.
Shademan, Shabnam (2006). Is phonotactic knowledge grammatical knowledge? WCCFL 25. 371379.
Shademan, Shabnam (2007). Grammar and analogy in phonotactic well-formedness judgments. PhD thesis, University of California, Los Angeles.
Sheskin, David J. (2004). Handbook of parametric and nonparametric statistical procedures. 3rd edn. Boca Raton: Chapman & Hall.
Tessier, Anne-Michelle (2006). Biases and stages in phonological acquisition. PhD dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Vitevitch, Michael S. & Luce, Paul A. (1998). When words compete: levels of processing in perception of spoken words. Psychological Science 9. 325329.
Vitevitch, Michael S. & Luce, Paul A. (1999). Probabilistic phonotactics and neighborhood activation in spoken word recognition. Journal of Memory and Language 40. 374408.
Vitevitch, Michael S. & Luce, Paul A. (2004). A web-based interface to calculate phonotactic probability for words and nonwords in English. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, and Computers 36. 481487.
Vitevitch, Michael S. & Luce, Paul A. (2005). Increases in phonotactic probability facilitate spoken nonword repetition. Journal of Memory and Language 52. 193204.
Vitevitch, Michael S., Luce, Paul A., Charles-Luce, Jan & Kemmerer, David (1996). Phonotactic and metrical influences on adult ratings of spoken nonsense words. Proceedings of the International Conference on Spoken Language Processing (ICSLP). 8285.
Vitevitch, Michael S., Luce, Paul A., Charles-Luce, Jan & Kemmerer, David (1997). Phonotactics and syllable stress: implications for the processing of spoken nonsense words. Language and Speech 40. 4762.

Feature-based generalisation as a source of gradient acceptability*

  • Adam Albright (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed