Dissertation Defense: Cui

"The Emergence of Phonological Categories"
Apr 8, 2020 at - | Event will be Virtual due to the Coronavirus restrictions.



Aletheia Cui is pleased to announce that she will be defending her dissertation entitled "The Emergence of Phonological Categories" on Wednesday, April 8th at 9am. The defense is open to the public.

More information and the abstract are below. 


Supervisor: Charles Yang

Committee: Jianjing Kuang, Don Ringe

Date & Time: Wednesday, April 8th, 9am


The Emergence of Phonological Categories


While phonological features are often assumed to be innate and universal (Chomskyand Halle, 1968), recent work argues for an alternative view that phonological features are emergent and acquired from linguistic input (e.g., Dresher, 2004; Mielke, 2008; Clements andRidouane, 2011). This dissertation provides support for the emergent view of phonological features and proposes that the structure of the lexicon is the primary driving factor in the emergence and change of phonological categories. Chapter 2 reviews the relevant developmental and theoretical literature on phonological acquisition and offers a reconsideration of the experimental findings in light of a clear distinction between phonetic and phonological knowledge. Chapter 3 presents a model of phonological category emergence in first language acquisition. In this model, the learner acquires phonological categories through creating lexically meaningful divisions in the acoustic space, and phonological categories adjust or increase in number to accommodate the representational needs of the learner's increasing vocabulary. Computational experiments were run to test the validity of this model using acoustic measurements from the Philadelphia Neighborhood corpus as input. To provide evidence in support of a lexically-based acquisition model, Chapter 4 uses the Providence Corpus to investigate developmental patterns of phonological contrast. This corpus study shows that lexical contrast, not frequency, contributes to the development of production accuracy on both the word and phoneme levels in 2- to 4-year-old. Chapter 5 extends the phonological acquisition model to study the role of lexical frequency and phonetic variation in the initiation and perpetuation of sound change. The results indicate that phonological change is overwhelmingly regular and categorical with little frequency effects. Overall, this dissertation provides substantive evidence for a lexically-based account of phonological category emergence.