The Berkeley Phonetics & Phonology Forum ("Phorum") is a weekly talk and discussion series featuring presentations on all aspects of phonology and phonetics.


Mondays 12-1
1303 Dwinelle


Emily Clem

Nicholas Rolle

Berkeley Phonetics and Phonology Forum

Schedule of Talks for Spring 2015

Previous Meetings

January 26 -

Roslyn Burns (UC Berkeley)
Umlaut or Unlaut: Vowel Alternations in Plautdietsch

Umlaut in modern West Germanic languages is understood as a phonologically motivated alternation of a set of vowels in given morphological environments wherein non-front vowels gain the feature [+front]. In Germanic languages, morphological umlaut is frequently distinguished from other types of ablaut alternations as the latter did not develop from a harmony process, therefore there is no expected phonological uniformity between the input-output relations of stem vowels. In this talk, I examine the phonological properties of input-output relations of nominal plural and adjective degree vowel alternation in the West Germanic language Plautdietsch (PDT). While a majority of the alternations ultimately come from Middle Low German umlaut, the system of alternations varies quite considerably from traditional accounts of umlaut in the rest of the family. One of the most striking features of umlaut is that not all outputs are [+front]. PDT vowel alternations are not uniform across the entire system of vowels: some sub-classes of alternations allow feature specifications not found in the input and others do not appear to have a clear featural motivation. I take the position that the vowel alternations in PDT system are best understood as synchronically opaque reflexes of diachronic developments which lie part way between an umlaut system and an ablaut system.

February 2 -

Mark Amengual (University of California, Santa Cruz)
Robust phonetic discrimination does not guarantee target-like lexical encoding in early bilinguals

This study examines the production, perception and processing of the Catalan /e/-/ɛ/ and /o/-/ɔ/ vowel contrasts by 60 Spanish-Catalan bilinguals in Majorca (Spain). Results from picture-naming, identification, AX discrimination, and lexical decision tasks show that even though these early and highly proficient bilinguals maintain robust mid-vowel contrasts in their productions and demonstrate a high accuracy in perceptual identification and discrimination tasks, they have difficulties distinguishing between words and non-words in a lexical decision task. These findings provide evidence that making explicit judgments regarding whether a certain sound belongs to a phonemic category (i.e., as accomplished via identification and discrimination tasks) does not entail that listeners have an appropriate representation at the lexical level.

February 9 -

Tsz-Him Tsui (The Ohio State University)
Functional load and perception of voicing contrasts in English fricatives

Recent studies suggested that phonological contrasts with low functional load are more likely to undergo phonological mergers than those with high functional load (Wedel et al 2013a, b). It remains unclear, however, how such effects are realized in speech perception and/or production. The current study investigates whether functional load influences the categorical perception of voicing contrasts in English fricatives. I will report results from two experiments (identification and AX discrimination), and provide evidence that, among other factors, phonological contrasts with higher functional load are perceived more categorically. These findings suggest that functional load may influence how categorically a particular contrast is perceived, and thus functional load is a potential factor in sound change.

February 16 -

No Meeting (Presidents' Day)

February 23 -

Hannah Sande (UC Berkeley)
Weight-dependent infixing reduplication in Amharic

In Amharic, a Semitic language spoken primarily in Ethiopia, plural agreement on adjectives and iterative marking on verbs involves infixing reduplication. Interestingly, the infixing morpheme is only possible in adjectival and verbal stems containing underlying heavy syllables--those ending in geminate consonants. The infix surfaces immediately preceding the geminate and has the shape CV, where the C shares features with the geminate. In this talk I demonstrate the relationship between the stress and weight systems of Amharic and this infixing reduplication process. Additionally, I provide an Optimality Theory account of the data, demonstrating that our analysis must refer to heavy syllables in order to ensure the correct landing site of the infix. This means that Amharic is the first attested language where infixes target heavy syllables.

March 2 -

Matthias Sjerps (UC Berkeley)
The initiation of speech planning in turn-taking

In conversation, inter-turn intervals are mostly short (around 200ms), suggesting that listening and speech planning can often overlap in time. However, it is unclear when speakers prefer to begin to plan their utterances. They could either prepare their utterances as soon as they know what to say, or they could wait until right before their turn. I describe a dual-task paradigm involving finger tapping (as an indicator of cognitive load) and turn-taking, which was used to investigate this question. The results show that tapping rate in a turn-taking condition initially did not differ from a listening only condition, but tapping rates dropped shortly before the onset of the participant’s own turn. An eye-tracking experiment confirmed that the participants’ attention turned to their own displays around that time. The combined data suggest that participants adopted a late planning strategy. Additional research shows that such a strategy could be important to allow listeners to process the speech of their interlocutor.

March 9 -

Stephanie S. Shih (UC Merced)
Constraint conjunction in weighted phonological grammars

This talk examines a case of parasitic tone harmony from Dioula d’Odienné, in which there is a ganging effect of local and long-distance segmental features that increases the likelihood of tone harmony. I use the Dioula data to revisit the recent claim put forth by e.g., Potts et al. (2010), Pater (to appear) that ganging effects can be captured solely by cumulativity in weighted constraints, and that constraint conjunction—the previous method of obtaining ganging—is no longer necessary given additive constraint weights (cf. Smolensky 2006). In the present analysis, I argue that the simple addition of constraint weights is insufficient to adequately model the probabilistic ganging effects of similarity found in the Dioula corpus. Weighted constraint conjunction, implemented as an interaction term in Maximum Entropy Optimality Theory, provides a significantly improved model of ganging. Differences between weighted constraint conjunction and previous implementations of local constraint conjunction will be discussed, as will methods for model selection and comparison in probabilistic Optimality Theory when addressing quantitative natural language data.

March 16 -

Douglas Pulleyblank (The University of British Columbia)
An allomorphy based account of vowel harmony in Nata and Ikoma


March 23 -

No Meeting (Spring Break)

March 30 -

Emily Cibelli (UC Berkeley)
Acquiring novel phoneme categories: Evidence from within-mode and cross-modal learning

The speech categories of a speaker's native language are robust in the face of considerable acoustic variation in natural speech. However, the well-entrenched biases of the perceptual system to these native categories can make it difficult to acquire the speech sounds of a new language in adulthood. In this talk, I discuss two behavioral studies designed to examine the types of information that novice learners find useful when acquiring fledgling phonemic categories. In particular, I'll focus on the interaction of acoustic and articulatory information during training as a means to building more stable novel categories in the early stages of learning.

April 6 -

Susan Lin (UC Berkeley)
The articulation of (some) Kaytetye consonants

Kaytetye (Kaititj) is an Arandic language spoken near Alice Springs, NT, Australia. Like many Australian languages, the Kaytetye segmental inventory consists of an extensive series of consonants and only a handful of vowels. However, the language is unusual among Australian languages in being reported as having both a series of consonants exhibiting contrastive pre-stopping as well as a series exhibiting non-contrastive pre-stopping. This talk examines a subset of the consonants in Kaytetye, using previously collected ultrasound video, providing a descriptive account of the so-called coronal series, and exploring the differences in production between contrastive and non-contrastive pre-stopped consonants.

April 9 -

Beth Hume (University of Canterbury)
The message shapes phonology: A unified account of strong and weak patterns

Note: Special day (Thursday) and time (11:00-12:00)


April 13 -

Darya Kavitskaya & Sharon Inkelas (UC Berkeley)
Cluster simplification in a nonword repetition study of Russian children with SLI

This paper reports preliminary results from a nonword repetition study involving two matched Russian-speaking child populations, one typically developing and one with Specific Language Impairment (SLI). The two populations are compared with respect to their overall accuracy on word repetition, with a special focus on consonant clusters.

April 20 -

Benjamin Parrell (UC Berkeley (Psychology))
The role of the cerebellum in speech motor control: Evidence from speakers with ataxia

Damage to the cerebellum has profound effects on speech: patients exhibit 'scanning speech' with excess and equal stress on every syllable and produce consonants and vowels with variable durations, among other issues. We suggest that these speech problems arise because the cerebellum is crucial to feed-forward control of speech production, the anticipatory system of control necessary for the fast, precise, and accurately timed movements necessary in speaking. We provide converging evidence from two patient studies that show patients with cerebellar degeneration are impaired in adapting these crucial feed forward motor plans and rely on sensory feedback in production to a greater degree than healthy controls.

April 27 -

Sharon Inkelas & Stephanie S. Shih (UC Berkeley; UC Merced)
Tone melodies in the age of Surface Correspondence

This talk reports on preliminary work that utilizes Agreement by Correspondence (ABC) to reexamine tone melody inventories, a landmark phenomenon in the development of Autosegmental Phonology (AP). We argue that, under a surface correspondence approach, tone melody inventories emerge naturally from the phonological grammar, rooted in independently-motivated principles of similarity and proximity, with proven effects in segmental phenomena. Our results, from Melody in Lexicons (MeL) Project corpora of Mende and Hausa lexical tone patterns, illustrate that generalisations about tone melody distribution that originally drove the development of AP in fact provide unique arguments in support of an optimizing, surface correspondence-based analysis.

Previous AP approaches to Mende tone melodies in particular explained the commonality of certain surface lexical tone patterns by positing a limited inventory of underlying melodies (Leben 1978), which were mapped to surface tone-bearing units via directional, one-to-one association conventions. A noted problem with the inventory and mapping approach, however, is that it is too restrictive, wrongly excluding attested though less frequent surface tone patterns. To account for additional tone patterns, AP must posit underlying associations of tone, language-specific modifications to representational well-formedness, and reference to tone contours as a unit. Taken together, the data show that the assumption of limited melodic inventories and directional tone mapping cannot coexist without significantly weakening one or another fundamental element of AP.

We present here an alternative analysis in which both Mende and Hausa surface tone patterns and their lexical frequencies emerge from an optimizing grammar based on a single explanatory mechanism of phonological correspondence in ABC. Surface correspondence successfully models not only the limited distribution of non-final contour tones but also the observed alignment between tone and syllable boundaries, which results in more complex tone melodies as word length increases. An ABC-driven approach to tone melodies thus provides a united and more fine-grained treatment of the melodic tone systems, without the representational mechanisms required in AP.

May 4 -

Jeffrey Heinz (University of Delaware)
Remarks on Autosegmental Representations

I will present some research on autosegmental representations (ASRs). Two important constraints in the phonological literature are the No-Crossing Constraint (NCC) and the Obligatory Contour Principle (OCP). With some exceptions, theories of well-formed ASRs take these as axioms of the system. Here, I show that the NCC and the OCP can be derived under certain conditions from a constructive approach to ASRs (Jardine and Heinz, under review). The basic idea is that ASRs can be built from the concatenation of finitely many primitive ASR units. Constructions are illustrated from examples familiar from the literature on tone. If the primitive units obey the NCC and OCP, it is guaranteed that any ASR constructed from them will too.

May 11 -

David Corina (UC Davis)
Signed Languages and Human Action Understanding: Implications for a Model of Sign Language Processing

To what extent does the perception of a formal signed language, such as American Sign Language (ASL), rely upon neural systems that are used in the service of more general human action understanding? I will present behavioral, fMRI neuroimaging and electrophysiology data from studies that directly compare the processing of sign language forms to non-linguistic gestures in deaf and hearing sign-naive participants. The data suggest that sign language perception draws upon neural mechanisms that are utilized in general human action perception and that linguistic experience tunes this system for rapid assessment language and non-language forms.