Learning unattested languages


This paper demonstrates the role of morphological alternations in learning novel phonotactic patterns. In an artificial grammar learning task, adult learners were exposed to a phonotactic pattern in which the first and last consonant agreed in voicing. Long-distance phonotactics encoded as strictly piecewise languages suggest that first-last phonotactic patterns should be unattested in natural language. However, recent theories of morphologically induced phonological patterns predict that long-distance agreement between the first and last consonant of a word can occur when the agreement is induced as a morphological alternation. The results of two experiments support the prediction that first-last harmony patterns are more easily learned when morphological cues to the pattern are present. Participants only learned the first-last pattern when presented as a morphological alternation.

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