Contrast analysis aids the learning of phonological underlying forms

John Alderete, Adrian Brasoveanu, Nazarré Merchant, Alan Prince, and Bruce Tesar

Abstract : This paper presents evidence in support of the idea that observations about surface contrast can inform a language learner about the content of underlying forms. Specifically, it is shown that contrasting surface realizations of a pair of morphemes in a given morphological environment can provide information about the underlying forms of the contrasting morphemes, information about the features on which the surface realizations differ. The authors review formal results that provide sufficient conditions under which definite conclusions about underlying features can be made. A learning procedure for exploiting such contrast information is given, and simulation results of a larger learning algorithm using the contrast learning procedure are presented. An analysis of the behavior of the learning algorithm on different languages reveals interesting trade-offs between the contributions to overall learning made by phonotactic learning and contrast-based learning, depending upon properties of the language being learned.

Keywords : computational learning, Optimality Theory, metrical stress systems, interaction between stress and length, learning hidden structure, contrast analysis

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Full citation : Alderete, John, Adrian Brasoveanu, Nazarré Merchant, Alan Prince, and Bruce Tesar. 2005. Contrast analysis aids the learning of phonological underlying forms. In John Alderete, Alexei Kochetov, and Chung-hye Han (eds.), Proceedings of the 24th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, pp. 34-42. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.