(Laboratoire de Linguistique Formelle, Université de Paris)
Wednesday 8 December 2021
3.00-4.00 p.m. LPL, conference room B011
Studying constraints on language change: a synchronic approach
Languages evolve under a large swath of different pressures, but biases in the ways languages are learned and transmitted can explain why certain patterns are so recurrent cross-linguistically. In this talk, I will present experimental evidence attempting to shed light on the underpinnings of a couple of cross-linguistic regularities. Specifically, I will review a project on learning biases favouring phonetically-motivated (aka “natural”) rules, focussing on the typologically frequent rule of vowel harmony compared to the formally similar but unattested rule of vowel disharmony (Martin & Peperkamp, 2020; Martin & White, 2021). I will then discuss the so-called suffixing preference and show evidence that typological regularities may not always find their basis in cognitive constraints (Martin & Culbertson, 2020). I will then turn to a project looking at the link between individual-level perception and production in language contact by considering the emergence of the phoneme /g/ in European Dutch (Martin et al., in revision) and propose how the methodology used in that project can be expanded to study the time course of contact-induced change. I will briefly sum up by proposing a dual approach to the study of mechanisms underlying language change that considers biases situated both in the individual and in interaction.