P* Reading Group,

In this week’s P* Reading Group on Wednesday (Nov. 1), 11am-12pm in Room 117, Gasper Begus, a PhD student visiting from Harvard University, will present a talk entitled, “What can unnatural processes tell us about typology?
” The abstract is below. Everyone is welcome!

One of the most contested debates in phonology concerns identifying factors that affect typology. Two lines of thought emerge in this discussion: Analytical Bias (AB) and Channel Bias (CB) approach. Disambiguating between Analytic and Channel Bias influences on typology is complicated by the fact that several proposals assume learning biases (AB) crucially influence the frequency and directionality of sound change (CB). In this talk, I argue that this “duplication problem” is substantially reduced in the case of unnatural alternations. I present a model that estimates CB influences on typology based on a statistical technique non-parametric bootstrap called Bootstrapping Sound Changes (BSC). For any synchronic alternation, the BSC technique estimates the probability that the alternation arises based on the number of sound changes it requires and their respective probabilities. With the BSC technique, we can compare Historical Probabilities of attested and unattested alternations and perform inferential statistics on the comparison, predict (un)attestedness in a given sample for any alternation, and derive quantitative outputs for a typological framework that models both Channel Bias and Analytical Bias influences together. The BSC technique also identifies several mismatches in typological predictions of Analytic and Channel Bias approach. By comparing these mismatches with the observed typology, the paper attempts to quantitatively evaluate the distinct contributions of diachronic and synchronic factors on phonological typology.

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